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22 December 2017

How can we demonstrate love, freedom, justice and truth in 2018?

In November 2018 we will commemorate 100 years since the end of the first world war. On 6 January 1918 the country was called to prayer, the proclamation, issued by the King expressed the hope that: "we may be brought through strife to a lasting peace; and that the world may be united in a firmer fellowship for the promotion of thy glory and the good of all mankind." 

As we mark this centenary since the supposed war to end all wars ended, what can we do to build the kind of society that promotes God's glory and is for the good of all humankind? Following on from the publication of the Alliance's What kind of society? resource how can we demonstrate God's love, freedom, justice and truth to our communities this year, and what can we do to help people know them as real in their lives? 

In the last few years politics has moved at a manic pace. From 2014's Scottish referendum, to the 2015 general election, to another referendum, to a further general election, making political predictions for 2018 isn't a productive episode. We've had unexpected political twists and turns, but one trend has been constant, our trust in politics continues to fall. The latest polling shows only 15 per cent of the public trust politicians to tell the truth, that's down from 21 per cent in 2015. 

Why don't we look for opportunities to see how we can rebuild the relationship of trust between public and politicians? A simple act would be to meet with your local councillors or MP and ask what you can do serve them. It is easy to contact politicians when we are unhappy about something they are doing, or want them to support our cause, but we all have a role to play. We can demonstrate love for our communities and the people who work to represent them by taking the time to ask what we can do to help.

We have incredible freedom to talk about Jesus in our daily lives and it is vital that throughout this year we use our freedom with grace and wisdom and help other people find the ultimate freedom that comes only through Christ. There may be challenges to Christians living out their faith in society but that should only embolden us to demonstrate the good news to society. What can you do in 2018 to help people find freedom? Christians down the centuries have stood at the forefront as agents of freedom, and today across the UK it is often Christians who advocate for people struggling with poverty and addiction. 

Through ministries, charities, and the everyday work of churches, people are finding freedom. This is vital work that we should be giving ourselves to this year.

At its most straightforward justice is putting things right. At the end of 2018 we will celebrate 70 years since the signing of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and standing for justice remains as important now and across the world as it ever has. People are enslaved, poverty is entrenched, systems are corrupt, and freedom of religion is undermined.

Sometimes it can be difficult when we look at all the calls for support from organisations working for incredible causes to know what to do and which to support. In the UK there are injustices that continue to need tackling but in so many ways we have what others do not. In 2018 why don't you make a commitment, initially for just a year, to support an organisation that is working for justice across the world?

Truth is difficult in a world that challenges everything. When truth becomes relative and easy to reject it is crucial for Christians to stand firm in what they believe. We've seen phenomena of post truth and fake news dominate in recent years, truth has become arbitrary. In some circumstances we are still certain that some things are right and others wrong, and yet in the same breath truth is dismissed as just another opinion.

Where are there untruths spoken and lived in our society that need challenging? When we come across something untrue in the coming year will we have the confidence and the compassion to speak out with care and stand up for truth?

Learning from experts
Want to ensure your organisation or church is alert to the challenges of changing regulation and law? In February 2018, the Alliance is running Above and Beyond – a day conference on how. Stephanie Biden, partner at legal firm Bates, Wells and Braithwaite (BWB) is a speaker at the event. "This is for anyone involved in running or administering a church or Christian charity, says Stephanie. "With input from experts on how to navigate the challenges and hurdle of regulation and law and ensure your organisation can flourish in its mission."

Serving mission well and transparently is key for any Christian charity or church says Stephanie, so we need to be exemplary in our dealings: "We're told to submit to the authorities that govern us because they've been established by God, and St Paul wrote in Corinthians that he was 'taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.' New changes in law, and in particular on data protection coming in in May next year, make the event a timely one in order to understand the issues. "The General Data Protection Regulations introduce more stringent standards," says Stephanie. "The changes affect how you handle personal information about your congregation, supporters and people your charity work with. Above and Beyond will help you get ready for these changes."

The event will also provide practical tips from experts and useful resources to take away and apply. 

Learn about the legal issues 

Adds Stephanie: "I'll be talking about how to deal with the Charity Commission if something goes wrong – when, why and how to report serious incidents to the Commission and what to do if the Commission raise concerns about your charity's work. Other colleagues will be covering legal issues including the Equality Act, data protection and safeguarding."

As well as legal updates, there will also be some practical sessions on church finances, communications in crisis and calm, and building resilience. Go to www.eauk.org/aboveandbeyond to find out more and get tickets.

Here's some tips to help you make a start preparing for new data protection regulations.
1. Tell people why you are collecting and storing their details and what you are going to do with them. 
2. Keep personal data secure - don't share member lists with your whole membership unless everyone on the list has given express permission for you to do so. Train your staff and volunteers on data security.
3. Make it easy for people to remove their name from your lists. Use unsubscribe links if you send out emails and make sure you act on them promptly.
4. Don't keep personal data for longer than you need to and keep you records up to date. 
5. Make use of the free guides published on the Information Commissioner's website https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/dataprotection-
reform/overview-ofthe-gdpr/ or ring their helpline for advice: 0303 123 1113 (option 4)

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