Commenting on the disagreement between the Charity Commission and the authors of the new report Moral, But No Compass on the church and welfare, the religion and society think tank Ekklesia says that official and government agencies need better information - but that the churches, and the Church of England, in particular, should not be granted special privileges in their public role.
Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, commented: "There appears to be justification on both sides here, and evidence of the need for a fuller debate and further thinking. The Von Hugel report is, in my experience, correct to talk about a data gap and lack of understanding in some government departments and public agencies when it comes to the role of the churches in the wider social sector.
"But we also agree with the Charity Commission that a privilege accorded to the established Church which allows many churches to enjoy the benefits of charitable status without the requirement to register and demonstrate public benefit is being ended with the Charities Act - and that all who seek a level playing field should welcome this. It is distressing to see Christians seeking or justifying special treatment and regard, when the Gospel message is about costly and sacrificial love and justice."
Regarding the Von Hugel report, one of the researchers confirmed to Ekklesia that "our respondents did not ask for special privileges for the Church. Our (Christian) respondents just wanted better recognition of their contribution for the whole community."
Background here: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/7330