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Holistic Mission: Social action and the Church of England

New ResPublica report argues that the Church must become an enabling institution focussed on holistic, interpersonal and local social action.

Local government and churches should work together to fight deep-seated poverty and social dysfunction, urges a new report from ResPublica.

Holistic Mission: Social Action and the Church of England reveals that the Church drives social action, and calls for the Government to recognise and harness this power for the common good.

Launching on Wednesday 10th July in Lambeth Palace, with keynote remarks from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Justin Welby and the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd MP, the report will demonstrate that the Church has a truly unique place in English society, and is the key to unlocking a revolution in both voluntary and statutory public service provision. The report argues that we need new institutions for the 21st century, and that the Church is well-placed to become one.

Drawing on new survey data, specifically commissioned for this research, the report reveals the following about the social action of the Church:

·  The Church promotes social action: 79% of Anglican congregations formally volunteer compared with only 49% of the general public. 90% of church congregations informally volunteer compared to 54% of the general public.

·  The Church is hyper-local: 90% of Anglican volunteers are participating in social action within 2 miles of their home – and 88% travel under 2 miles to attend church.

·  Belief drives volunteering, but volunteers don’t proselytise: 61% of Anglican volunteers strongly agreed they were motivated by their faith - but 88% are comfortable helping those with different beliefs or values.

·  But the Church can’t do it alone: 89% of volunteers agreed that their work was needed to compensate for poor government services.

The report argues that the Church is not simply a source of willing volunteers, but also a vital motor of social cohesion and social action. Local churches have access to people on a direct human level and are connected to communities at a level more local and more personal than most government service providers. The report demonstrates that the beliefs of the church are central to its success in this and that the gigantic potential of the church must not be seen as independent from its foundational ethos.

Phillip Blond, Director of ResPublica, said: 

"Institutions are crucial to brokering the future of a country. Without both enabling and mediating institutions that leverage people into education, skills and shared prosperity, a nation cannot progress.

“This report argues the Church has the potential, the experience and the capacity to become one of the foundational enabling and mediating institutions that the country so desperately needs. The Church is a unique institution with enormous reservoirs of good will, education and capacity. As the established Church, it can broker in not just itself but all the other faiths and beliefs that constitute the nation and the moral vision of the country in the establishment of a renewed common good."


Based on these powerful revelations about the Church’s role in civil society the report makes a series of powerful recommendations for both Church and Government:

·  The Cabinet Office should create a Unit to help involve the church in public service delivery, and to help explore alternative models of delivery.

·  The Cabinet Office should bring forward a new White Paper to investigate a holistic and personalised vision of public service.

·  The Church should set up a Social Action Unit to co-ordinate social action across dioceses and between Church and government.

·  This Social Action Unit should in turn oversee the creation of diocesan Social Action Teams to work with community groups and local government to tackle local problems and deliver services.

·  The Church Commissioners, Church of England Pensions Board and CCLA should set aside a certain percentage of the returns on their investment to invest in church-based social ventures.

·  Local Churches should make use of the ‘community right to buy’ and the Public Services (Social Value) Act to help communities retain and expand their assets.

The report highlights innovative examples of new and expanding church-based social ventures and the emerging social investors taking up the opportunity to create great social impact through them.

Resurgo Investors, cited within the report, is one such example; it is a club of socially motivated investors established in 2013 which aims to accelerate the reach and impact of outstanding church-based social ventures.

Tom Jackson, Chief Executive of Resurgo Social Ventures, said:

"Local churches are distinctive in their geographic spread across the country, their commitment to social service and their ability to catalyse a local network of volunteers. Churches therefore provide a critical platform for deep social transformation and could generate even greater social impact with bolder vision, resourcing and leadership."

Click here to download the full report (1.6MB)

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