Big Society: Engagement not endorsement, says Methodist Church
Today the Methodist Church agreed that, despite many concerns
expressed by Methodists about the Big Society, churches must not
walk away from opportunities to serve their communities.
A report to presented to the annual Methodist Conference
expressed serious concerns about the Government's use of the Big
Society initiative to justify cuts in public spending.
"We are already seeing the impact of spending cuts on local
charities, hitting the lives of the most vulnerable and making the
changes promised by the Big Society harder to deliver," said Rachel
Lampard, Public Issues Policy Adviser. "Even if the emphasis on
local decision-making and volunteering isn't a cynical cover for
spending cuts it certainly makes the 'new austerity' politically
The Conference also raised concerns about how the implementation of
Big Society initiatives might benefit some communities while
leaving others behind.
"Not everyone will be able to join in the Big Society and
benefit from its opportunities to the same degree," continued Ms
Lampard. "Communities that lack resilience, confidence, practical
and inner resources will be less able to participate, and may end
up in competition with more articulate and powerful communities.
The Big Society will look very different in Kensington and Chelsea
than it will in Kensington, Liverpool. In reality, the Big Society
could reinforce the fault lines in an already fractured
However, despite these concerns Ms Lampard argued that the
Church's response should not be one of disengagement: "Methodists
don't walk away because things get difficult. We are called to
continue engaging, identifying who needs us and who we can work
alongside. We are called to live out our faithful, long-term
commitment to others. This has to be part of our mission as active
followers of Jesus Christ."
This report recommended that the Methodist Church should to
continue to speak publicly about justice, whilst serving its
communities locally, nationally and internationally. The Church was
also encouraged to continue examining its own practices to ensure
that it promotes equality and works towards a society in which all
The full report can be found online here.