In June the Prime Minister asked Danny Kruger MP for proposals to sustain the community spirit we saw during the lockdown. Today, Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant was launched. The report sets out a vision for a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods. The Evangelical Alliance were asked to contribute to the report and worked with others to ensure the views of our members were well represented.

The report recognises the invaluable role of churches noting that, before the welfare state, social support was provided by parishes, and by a patchwork of independent charities, foundations, friendly societies, mutuals, trades unions, cooperatives – and churches… Many of our public services – our modern health, education and probation systems in particular – have their origins in Christian institutions”.

There is recognition the contribution made by faith groups not just in terms of financial resources but also the practical, social and spiritual support they provide. Churches have deep roots in local communities and are there for the long term. They often have buildings at the heart of communities, including the poorest, and operate both nationally and at the hyperlocal level. The relationships within a congregation are a source of huge resilience and there is a strong outward focus to help others in the local community.

There can be challenges for faith groups working with the public sector and the report recognises issues arising from faith illiteracy’ and even faith phobia’. It acknowledges that, there are no values-free zones anywhere. Secular public servants bring their philosophy to work too. Like religious people they have a moral vision, strive for personal righteousness, and wish that everyone thought like they did; unlike religious people they don’t always recognise their own religiosity”.

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A radical new deal is proposed with faith communities as part of the report: The Government should invite the country’s faith leaders to make a grand offer of help on behalf of their communities, in exchange for a reciprocal commitment from the state.” Rather than money, the suggestion is that government would direct, from the very top, all public servants to facilitate the work of the faith group on the agreed mission or missions. 

In discussion with various Christian leaders there have been indications that £500m could be raised over the next five years to tackle some of the most significant social challenges. This is incredibly exciting and challenging. The section on faith communities concludes by acknowledging that our commitment is often regarded suspiciously as proselytism’. Yet the fact that most religious people wish the whole world to agree with them does not mark them as different from secular liberals, who also wish their theology to be universal. A tolerant society has space for all”. This an encouraging acknowledgement in a report that has been welcomed by the Prime Minister. 

The Evangelical Alliance also welcomes this report, with our director of advocacy, Dr David Landrum, commenting, We welcome this report by Danny Kruger. It is timely and suggests innovative approaches to tackling longstanding social injustices. Evangelicals have an illustrious history of not only providing a safety net in challenging times, but also of transforming civil society for the benefit of all. We look forward to playing our part again in support of a new social covenant.”

Our Changing church survey in June told us that 90 per cent of our member churches were working to meet the needs of the local community and almost three-quarters were working in partnership with either local authorities, other churches or local charities. We, as an alliance of evangelicals, will continue to do that work, but it is encouraging to see government recognise the role churches play and look for ways to enable more partnership, while allowing churches to remain true to their gospel calling. 

Do check out the report, particularly pages 34 – 37, and let your local politicians and civic leaders know about it. 

We welcome this report by Danny Kruger. It is timely and suggests innovative approaches to tackling longstanding social injustices.