Report of Faith to Engage New Politics Roundtable – St Philip’s Centre – 26th June 2012
Faith to Engage has been stimulating reflection and discussion around the momentous events of 2010 and 2011 including the August Riots, the confrontation between Occupy London and St Pauls Cathedral and the more widespread phenomena of Faith engagement in the Public Square, failure of financial institutions and consequent austerity programmes. How should those of faith now engage, where and how is our influence to be exerted, what motives do we espouse and share, what issues should we address?
Terry Drummond, Bishop of Southwark’s adviser on Urban and Public Policy (see further biographic note in his paper) who says he is paid to be a thoughtful hermit for most of his day when the bishop’s team have gone off to work. Terry will be developing the paper he has prepared in further work around the UK and then in a research break in (Otago University) in Dunedin, New Zealand. He will also be addressing the Asian and Pacific Bishops conference in Christchurch NZ and hopes to visit some of them.
Nick Gardham is the Projects Director of RE:generate with active experience of working on their programmes across England. He is currently responsible for projects in Newark and Nottingham linking faith and Community Animating, in a project that is designed to transform local service delivery in Bath and North East Somerset as well as being part of the team leading the National Community Organiser programme.
Nick previously established a youth movement in Goole, was involved with the UK YouthParliament, worked in the press industry and as a secondary school teacher in inner city Manchester.
Revd Canon Dr John Hall, is Director of St Philips having moved last year from Coventry where he lead the West Midlands Faith Forum. John had increasingly addressed the challenge of a multi-faith Britain as a Social Responsibility Officer in Coventry Diocese and previously in the Probation Service.
Andrew Presland, co-ordinates East Northamptonshire Faith Group including newer churches and their engagement with the authorities. He explained that his understanding of the policy context and public sector derives from his day job as an analyst in the Department of Communities and Local Government, where he’s currently producing the official homelessness statistics. East Northamptonshire is very “non-diverse”, with less than 1% in non- Christian faiths. In practice, the Faith Group works largely through “evangelical activists” to encourage churches to serve their local communities, rather than focusing on dialogue between faiths. He is an Anglican layman in Rushden, in a church which employs a team of community youth workers.
Stella Collishaw Community Action Officer, Mission and Ministry Team, Derby Diocese. The role began in Social Responsibility. Her hope is that churches can be encouraged to partner together in mission and to support and learn from the Community and Voluntary sector. She has just completed a piece of work commissioned and published by the Arthur Rank Centre called ’Equipping for Rural Mission’. She has also co authored ‘Faith in Action. A Derbyshire Churches guide to Community Mission’ which is also highlighted in Arthur Rank centres library of rural good practice. She and her job share colleague Canon Joy Bates, produce the newsletter “find”. Her team is focussed on Mission Action Planning and her aim is to improve the churches community engagement through that medium. Stella is a member of Social Responsibility Network and represented them on Archbishops Council for Mission and Public Affairs. Her work across Derbyshire includes the focus on mental health and financial exclusion. She has a strong commitment to social justice and to community mission. She strongly believes we should be good news to the poor and disenfranchised. Her former working roles involved being a Residential Social Worker, Bail Hostel worker, Probation Officer, Youth Justice Officer, Youth and Community Worker and a brief stint as a research scientist. These roles were in Inner City London and Manchester. She now lives with her teenage son who has a profound learning disability.
Revd Canon Barry Naylor is Convenor of City Churches Together Mission Partnership in the Diocese of Leicester, Urban Canon and Chaplain to the City Centre. Last year he was rewarded with a Chief Superintendent's Commendation by the City Police Commander, to recognise outstanding personal commitment and leadership in establishing a nationally recognised Street Pastors Scheme in the City of Leicester and contribution to the city and county consultative group. Barry shared that one of the biggest challenges was to bring the evangelicals into this project as they were suspicious of his liberal leanings!
Revd Canon Alan Robson (Methodist) is Agricultural Chaplain in Lincolnshire his role includes pastoral support and advocacy on behalf of those within the farming and rural communities of Lincolnshire who may face unexpected difficulties. His role also includes networking with people in associated organisations and grappling with some of the difficult issues of the day such as food security at the highest level. He has worked extensively with migrant workers and the communities in which they live.
Pastor David Howe, Heanor Baptist Church, is a highly respected senior minister in the East Midlands association with a close involvement in counteracting racist and other sectarian groups. He was drawn into this concern when BNP members were elected in his area and is sensitised to some degree by his personal experience in a mixed race marriage and difficulties his now 12 year old son has faced at school. He is continuing his engagement in monitoring the implosion of the BNP and the drift of extremists into both the English Defence League and UK Independence Party through an ecumenical national monitoring group.
Moyo Adeneye is Faith to Engage’s National Project Manager based with Oasis in London and has previously worked within the Equalities & Human Rights Commission. Moyo is particularly concerned that her project had been disrupted by the dismantling of regions and is keen to encourage networks which can continue the movement. She is also concerned to see independent churches such as her own play overcome barriers of diversity and theology and play their full part in society.
Derek Markie is the East Midland Partner for Faith to Engage and was director of the now disbanded East Midlands Churches Forum where he had focused on Voluntary Sector engagement and churches representation on the Regional Assembly and Planning Board. Derek is a Baptist layman involved in an inner-city church in Lincoln and a management consultant working across private, public and voluntary sectors. (Derek had co-ordinated the day which followed and submitted a brief paper on the need for a new politics)
Those who had also hoped to be present are:
Jenny Kartupelis MBE MPhil, Jenny is Director of the East of England Faiths Council, which she helped to establish ten years ago to ensure the faith communities of the region be recognised and consulted as key contributors to civic life. Jenny is a public relations professional, and established a PR consultancy in Cambridge in 1987 becoming Cambridge New Businesswoman of the Year. (Jenny’s paper was presented and includes a further biographic note)
The Venerable Peter Hill, Archdeacon of Nottingham. Peter has been a secondary school teacher, incumbent minister of two mining parishes in the diocese and subsequently Chief Executive for four years immediately prior to becoming Archdeacon. He is Voluntary and Faith Sector advocate on the Board of One Nottingham – the city’s Strategic Partnership
Derek welcomed everyone to the day and thanked John for the hospitality and support of the centre and its staff. John would be chairing and facilitating our discussion and offering reflections at its close.…and then led a time of worship with thoughts around Matthew 10 (the sending out of the disciples to be wise, harmless and courageous) and Daniel 7 (struggling with unfathomable visions but getting on with his important job) We then followed the pattern of his praying, in confession, for lost direction and missed opportunities of the past and pleading for inspiration for the more immediate future.
Terry Introduced his paper: The New Politics - Identifying new ideas and ways of thinking together - How Christians and people of faith might contribute
We continued to be in times of challenge and opportunity:
- the recent Near Neighbours Conference now saw the prospect of church groups being handed £m to serve their communities
- Churches Forum on the 2011 riots would involve him in a follow up report on where those communities and churches who ministered to them are now
- St Paul’s & OccupyLondon he had observed from over the river – while in Dunedin cathedral in NZ a similar event had led them to open its cafe and toilets to “occupiers”
Faith in the City had been a high point for the Anglican churches social engagement but it was now seen as pre-occupied with issues of gay-rights and women bishops, irrelevant to many outside the church
The paper seeks to address : not just UK but the worlds need for new politics. Globalism and diversity (even this week David Miliband had suggested this had gone too far with European migrations) while right wing agendas pressed further in moves against benefits.
We had lost the moment, Giles Fraser was hauled back and Occupy had lost its focus to end as protests against everything but the dilemmas are still real and pressing.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s forthcoming book would clearly re-ignite discussion of the claim that the Big Society was a false prospectus yet from the left too John Cruddas saw the “concept of the Big society” as good while Jesse Norman defined it purely in terms of a shrinking state. Right now the question for many is whether localism is growth of the state or the opposite?
The Church continues to be generous but doesn’t understand its impact let alone it’s potential.
Causes of concern in my mind include the carving out of increasingly rich and exclusive zones in London which certainly inflame some but the riots and those pictures of Reeves Corner in Croydon were some kind of madness – what was going on?
Is it a reaction against our increasingly economically led society – even in our dioceses.
Judt highlights issues of deserts v. Needs, Standing suggests we seek a new politics of paradise, Sandel suggests we now have a market society rather than just a market economy.
Catholic Social Teaching continues to be a very important reference but at the evangelical end it has been interesting to join London 2013 – a group planning for a visit Franklin Graham to the UK – setting up a working group on issues around Christians in public life.
The Archbishop and Vatican have both argued strongly for a “Tobin” Tax.
I welcome further input and comments. Thinking must go on in the media and churches’ press. We need to read theology and the papers and I have suggested various sources. As I develop this thinking I will be looking at ways to continue the dialogue through some sort of blog site but first would welcome your questions and comments.
Questions and Discussion
1. How can we speak truth to power when we have not reassessed our power?
Do we have the equivalent power and words to match the secular intellectuals
I grew up in East London and was encouraged to get stuck in and think big when I first engaged in social concern. We don’t have the courage to engage until we are wide eyed and legless – we so often just go where we are taken – we lack the trust to let go of control and just go.
- My concerns right now include the land grab e.g. by China in Africa
2. Church Urban Funds right there on power and politics – but the generality of the church is not there – so we can’t speak with that greater authority – the population of our pews is not (apparently) behind us
3. Local churches tend to be doers rather than thinkers - but perhaps the local activities stimulate the wider thinking: e.g. involvement in a local food bank might trigger informed concern for global food poverty.
4. Are we to personal in our theology, neglecting the transformation of the corporate, the culture, or the community
5. The authority of lived experience is genuine – policy needs to be made relevant by those who understand .......and those who carry the can
6. The isolated voice of Christianity – “but that’s just you B” – no I’m not just me but I look like it
7. Frank Furedi –University of Kent – speaks of loss of tolerance in our day – the fear of causing offence and harm and the presumption of a right to moral anonymity
Jenny Kartupelis’ paper The Presence of Faith in Public Life Myths, Perceptions, Problems and Opportunities – was presented by DM and he noted that they had shared some similar roles in their respective regions over the period since 1997 and he had every reason to admire Jenny’s impact and wisdom.
Nick Gardham then introduced the work of Re:generate a comprehensive model for community empowerment:
He linked his comment to JK’s needs based approach – but suggested Re:generate turns that into the discovery there of people’s own strengths rather than simply their need. He first drew a Venn diagram of personal/local action/wider society. How could people be moved from personal need and perceived powerlessness to action – to make a difference.
Re:generate starts with Community animating – waking people up, and moves on to Community Organising – assisting them to join forces and achieve significant change.
Faith communities are a huge asset base to begin with.
The process starts with Listening to individuals – what do you love, what are your concerns (sad, angry, frustrated, worried), visions/aspirations, project ideas (what could happen, build on your loves, address your concerns and begin to realise your vision). Do you have any say in what goes on in their lives, communities? (typically “No”), Why?( because no-one ever asked). Do you want to have a say (Typically again No! We challenge that – you love this place, your concerned, you have vision............”I can’t” but others feel the same – will you meet with them, could you work on this or that issue or building this group of friends to do it together. If a new service did emerge would you at least use it? Would you pay for it? Are you a potential customer if others did it.
At the VERY least have you got 5 minutes in the next 5 years – will you AT LEAST VOTE we establish a pledge and move forward on a basis on trust.
The network is then grown, via the face to face Questionnaire and the connections, the door openers, the house meetings which we then support.
We find ourselves working with separated, even opposed, groups and begin to draw them together including conflict resolution via leaders and inviters. Conflicts will break down via the formation of new relationships.
We build from the emerging leaders – the community holding team – whom we will train
We will then assist them with their project to interface with agencies in a positive dialogue. We refuse to allow communities to hand over the information the community holds to the agencies.........we want them to work together. Otherwise the community is not involved. So we help the community guard the accountability of money and to use their vote.
Tony Prior, an Justice and Peace Commissioner in Derby has worked on a specific guide for churches to see how they could lead such a process which draws on Catholic Social Teaching. See the document Re:congregate as well as our main submissions About Re:generate Organisational introduction and Listening Matters.
Questions and Discussion followed:
1 Do “community holding” teams relate to the existing community leads e.g Parish Councils
Nick: Yes if they are committed to work with and empower their communities
2. Re:generate is clearly a bottom up approach – are others relevant?
3. Can we always bring our view, our judgement without judgmentalism - the values. Do we have a belief in general goodness? Is the view that Jesus died for every individual – sufficient to see in each that ultimate value.
4. You’ve identified to “won’t vote” mindset. Will MPs listen to voters who, given the safety of their majority in many constituencies, will have little or no influence on the outcome
5. Re:generate is working towards individual projects rather broader programmes – surely these could meet minority needs and even be racially conflictual
6. DCLG worked on connecting communities and challenging – promoting dialogue – its a slow process.
7. My concern is still for the really vulnerable – who will still be left out and isolated . The tribe is capable of doing harm. Look at Winterbourne View. We need to intervene with and safeguard as well as empower vulnerable people.
8. How can you ensure control and sustainability of Community Development projects and inhibit the tendency of LA to regain “control”
Nick: we withdraw! Groups must become empowered and as long as we are there some will rely on us.....But we do aim to change the mindset of the Local Authority first.
8. Is this in collusion with the current political agenda of localism and Big Society
Nick: No, Re:generate influences political thought processes at the wider society level based on its experience of working at the grass roots of communities and we will continue to do what we have been doing for 25 years
9. My concern is still for the really vulnerable – who will still be left out, unhelped and isolated . The tribe is capable of doing harm My advice to such people is still to stay away because they are vulnerable.
10 I would mention the developing community chaplaincy model which may help and add Parish Nursing. Both build in safeguards through the permanent guardianship of chaplain or Nurse who avoids assuming a leadership role
11. My own concern is about the conflict between community and dysfunctional forces of commerce, many of whom have no local root or loyalty
12. Even in our churches we’ve become managerial and lost the pastoral –the primacy of responding to local needs
13. My experience of probation would emphasise the need for relational communities even liberation theology – roles of leaders/guardians of the vulnerable.
14. What about the role of priests as social entrepreneurs? Jenny’s paper responds to the perception that churches are anti-business, and their attitudes do seem quite patchy. Whilst pioneer ministers working on fresh expressions within church structures are very much in vogue, churches seem less inclined to encourage their lay members to use their entrepreneurial gifts to serve in the wider world, e.g. through social enterprises.
15. St Philip’s is just about to take on the employment of the PREVENT role lead, which will lead the Centre into challenging areas close to the authorities but working towards cohesion with alienated groups
16. -Stenett –points out the importance of dialectic/adversarial versus dialogue/discursive approaches
17. Religion & Change in Modern Britain (from Derby University)– includes Professor Weller’s own input on controversy as a lens of change
18. Has our society lost an ethical anchor. How can we walk together without fundamental agreement – for example black churches and the Church of England on gay rights
19 Part of our work is distilling issues - not too bad a task……and yet addressing the most endemic problems in our society such as gun crime might even be viewed as being "easy" in comparison to shifting belief systems and long established institutions embedded in our culture
20. It’s more about ditching the arguments and focusing on what is shared
21. In Croydon the independent churches led after the riots - “working” not “walking”
22. When I co-ordinated Street Pastors, those with deep concerns about gay rights wouldn’t join but their congregations did – the danger of the institutional rigidity
23. I want “our independent” churches (what others call BME churches) to engage with white – they need to raise their political literacy
24. We do need to identify some of the most significant changes – mature people are wealthy and the young are the new poor DM noted that recent figures showed that figures were trending towards 25% unemployed within this decade. In the OECD 15/16 – 24 year olds 17.1% were unemployed in March with 35% total NEETS. European youth unemployment is 22.6%, UK at 21.9% while JH added Spain at 50% (where his son is living).
25. Commented that chaplains are in some of the most tough world facing roles within the churches
26. we need stop worrying about money in our churches and refocus on what are we here for – rediscover listening, and older ways of being church. Is there space for an ongoing dialogue on what the new politics is?
27. There is space to be the radical opposite – the red Tory, the blue socialist – the positive but different voice which is in the process of an evolving identity and culture – the movement – but not the institution
28. Individualism has led to fragmentation – NG people seek to hold around a symbol/ a FLAG or football shirt.
29. – Robert Putnam writes on recovering community.
– what is the significance of new social media in the new politics? Is it only in the revolutions of the Middle East/N Africa
30. – I recently realised that folk at a conference were twittering at the meeting – they weren’t listening – just instant responses? Someone else declared that “I am what I tweet” - how complete a person are they!
31. I’m not sure communities can be defined by the media they use to communicate either
32. “Occupy” was greatly assisted by the use of Facebook and other social media. Also Occupy Leicester now seems to operate mainly as a Facebook encounter
33 The “Leicester model” of racial and faith diversity, for which I’m often asked, is in reality the Leicester story – respect, listen, share hospitality, do stuff together
34. White people have lost the inter-communal negotiating skills where racial minorities or similar groups are all more highly experienced in that negotiation
35 Look out for other needs – listen
John Hall introduces his brief resume
Our difficulty is addressing the macro issues – which we have touched on and have triggered each others’ contributions starting with Terry’s paper. It alerts us to look out for various voices but each of these lead us back into the relational engagement that Jenny and Nick have addressed. Jenny’s distillation of years of experience and then Nick’s compelling stimulus from the “simplicity” of the Re:generate model are a real challenge.
We have touched on the theology and need to return to address our mission.
We need to address the shared relational needs, the vulnerable and the local whom we would empower. How do we create the safe places of engagement, discussion and dialogue – such as we have set out to do here at St Philip’s?
We note the importance of story – as churches we should know that – and sharing that story
We come back to the things we share – which have flowed through our conversation, God’s love, His purposes revealed, - great gifts to share – beyond our churches.
Derek explained that today was not about reaching conclusions. The notes would be shared with our wider audience vie the EMCF/Faith to Engage web-sites and responses invited in our August e-letter.
Colleagues then shared their own key outcomes summary
Nick – I’ve valued the input from various view points and the questioning/challenges. It has restored my faith in the potential of the church to work on this. Other social foci like schools are similarly vital.
Moyo– Engagement is clearly going on and mutual support is clear – how can “my kind of church find their way into these”
Stella I’ve been to a recent study day on 1 & 2 Kings and find myself wondering what are the blinkers that restrict progress and effectiveness of the “good kings” who were almost there in many ways but totally falling short in others e.g. Solomon .......and what limits good leaders now, where are the blinkers: what have we continued to accept unthinkingly that is part of our culture [church culture]?
Andrew – It’s hard to know how best to respond to macro issues such as pressure on worldwide resources and youth unemployment, but discussing such issues is helpful in broadening perspectives. I’ve valued the way in which today’s discussions have identified ways of addressing such issues in a wide variety of contexts, and across a range of theologies
Terry – I am reminded to go back to relationship and story – can we blog it?
David – “New politics” was the driver for me to be here– and encourages me to engage, buy newspapers, support my son in the front line, of what we all need to do where we are - its now back to more diy!
Barry – Meeting together and discussing at this level – above the trivial arguments of my day in diocesan office!
Derek- Thank you all and to John and his team here. Today has met my needs and at least some of my hopes when I first set my sights on this theme for it.
Jenny Kartupelis added the following thought on reading the notes around our discussions, chiming rather well with the groups our closing thoughts on the huge task ahead: The government is quick to criticise the 'something for nothing' culture they perceive in some of the more deprived sections of society, but are themselves encouraging this within the public sector. We are increasingly asked for input free of charge to well funded public initiatives, while at the same time having our own capacity diminished, and all this in the name of 'austerity'. How do we react - still go on giving our time and expertise, because it's a way of making sure faith stays involved in civic life, or refuse to do so to make the point that 'something for nothing' eventually leads to the diminution or extinction of the bodies that the public sector needs to consult with?