Church openness needed on welfare issues

By Press Office
September 12, 2008

Responding to a recent speech by Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu on the role of faith groups in social welfare provision, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, said that while the Archbishop of York "is quite right to highlight the important work done by churches and faith groups in community regeneration", his remarks "pay insufficient attention to problems of access and discrimination, and to distinctions between statutory and voluntary provision. They also wrongly suggest that all questions and criticisms put to the church over its zeal to embrace contract culture and secure its position as a service provider are simply motivated by anti-religious sentiment. This is a misleading and disappointing response."

Barrow added: "Church leaders need to be seeking honest dialogue on welfare and their role. A culture of self-congratulation and defensiveness is not one which benefits churches, those of all faiths and none working at 'the coal face', people concerned about the needs of the most vulnerable, and those who have to take decisions about how social provision is best structured to ensure fairness and quality."

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