Letting government know we exist
Lyndon Bowring, Executive Chairman of CARE, comments on causes close to the heart of the Christian community.
Twelve years ago CARE made a shocking discovery. Dr Dan Boucher, our Director of Public Affairs, was meeting the civil servant responsible for the then government’s Faith Group.
As the conversation continued Dan realised that this man, supposedly an expert about 'faith' was totally unaware of the existence of any Christian denominations and movements that had come into being since 1903, apart from some black majority churches.
Incredibly, as far as the government was concerned, there were Anglicans, Roman Catholics and non-conformist denominations like Baptists and Methodists, but no Elim or Assemblies of God, Ichthus, New Frontiers, Pioneer, Vineyard – to name but a few.
Although these represented hundreds of thousands of Christian believers, this special government department had no knowledge of them.
Something had to be done.
CARE contacted the leaders of 15 of these denominations and movements suggesting they each appoint a Parliamentary Liaison Officer who could engage in local and national politics on behalf of their churches and make their presence known.
Elim’s current liaison officer is Dominic de Sousa who leads City Church Cardiff.
Four times a year he meets with 14 other members of this 'Grassroots' group for a day at CARE’s Westminster offices which includes walking over to Parliament to meet Christian MPs, Peers and others working there.
CARE’s team gives advice and encourages them to explore possibilities to serve in their local councils. One has become a local councillor and served as Mayor of her large city throughout Covid.
As the pandemic eases, Grassroots will regroup to help all churches once more to have a voice in the 'corridors of power'.
Meanwhile, the government has appointed Colin Bloom to serve in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as Faith Engagement Advisor.
A great friend of CARE, his previous jobs include leading the prestigious Christians in Politics all-party parliamentary group – a great influence of 'salt and light' within the Westminster Parliament.
Colin most definitely knows Elim well and is currently heading an Independent Faith Engagement Review that will help the government to engage with faith groups in England – the vast majority of which are Christian.
Throughout Covid, churches around Britain did an incredible job of serving their communities.
The help already being given to the hungry, homeless, lonely and vulnerable was ratcheted up. What a wonderful Christian witness this has been.
And even more important than night shelters, community groups and the rest, we know that huge numbers of people accessed church services and other Christian material online during lockdown.
May they follow this up by finding a church that cares about every aspect of people’s lives, demonstrating the love of Christ.
This article first appeared in September's Direction Magazine. For further details please click here.
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