Via Terry Sanderson writing on-line at the Guardian, we learn that the government has apparently, for the last two years, been in consultation with the Church to provide faith-based welfare:
For two years or more, Government Ministers have been in conversation with church leaders about the possibility of the church providing extensive welfare services, rather in the way that the church plays a major part in education.[My emphasis]
Read that highlighted section again: rather in the way that the church plays a major part in education.
So how do the churches play a major part of eduction? It’s quite simple really: the churches take huge swathes of cash from the government to run 1 in 3 state-funded schools. The churches then refuse entrance to the people paying for the state-funded school unless they both attend church, and want their children indoctrinated into the church’s religion. Is this really what the government has in mind for the welfare system? Not CofE? Well, no disability benefit for you. Not Catholic? No dental service. If not, what the hell does the bishop mean?
Both Government and church are well aware that in the Scandinavian countries and Germany the church provides extensive welfare services. These countries have a church tax, which is paid by most citizens. The money received through taxation is returned to the church in support of its ministers, its buildings and in making possible the extensive welfare work done in its name. admit that I have sometimes wished that we had a church tax in the United Kingdom.
So clearly part of my guess is correct: in a nation which is increasingly secular, a nation that increasingly does not go to church, the bishop wants to introduce a church tax. But note that this is actually unconnected to his preceding comments on providing welfare: the church tax would not be to pay for this church welfare program, it’s to pay for buildings and ministers. Welfare would only be an after-thought.
The Church of England has very strong roots in local communities, making it well placed in many contexts to deliver quality services in a way that truly understands the local situation, which government departments may not. We very much want to be part of the discussion about the new opportunities that are opening up.
Oh, I bet he does! Especially since he also says:
The church is treated as a partner, and its work is trusted, rather than controlled.
Presumably, then, part of this “discussion” will involve telling the government how trustworthy it is, and that it’s welfare provisions don’t need state control. You know, trustworthy like catholic adoption agencies refusing to deal with gays…
And there’s more:
The church is signing 25-year contracts for the new academies.
This, apparently, is an example of “delivering social needs”. 25 schools handed over to the church, which church rules for entrance. “Delivering social needs” apparently is only important if your christian. Or, more precisely, a member of the CofE. Of course the church is delighted, but that does not make it, “delivering social needs”, that makes it, “delivering the church’s needs”.
If the church is to be a partner, it must be trusted by government and not controlled. As I perceive it, recent governments have found that very difficult. Church projects of course would be audited, but not controlled.
Has no-one told the bishop that old phrase, “trust is earned”. The church hasn’t earned trust, so why would if “of course” not be controlled by the state? The state controls welfare. You don’t hand over vast sums of cash to a single organisation to manage welfare programs and not control it. Even if we ignore the churches appalling record on admissions to church schools, you just don’t do that.
The church very much wishes to be part of the discussion, but it also has serious concerns and misgivings, which need to be discussed frankly and addressed. It needs to be treated as a long-term partner which is trusted even when it wants to challenge the current effectiveness of delivery.
I have a better idea. Disestablish the church, and keep the damn thing out of politics. It has no business running schools as it is, it certainly has no business running the welfare system, and it most certainly has no business collecting taxes.
This is pretty scary stuff just on its own. But this is not the bishop of Carlisle just mouthing off, this is the bishop acting in his capacity on the bench in the house of Lords, putting forward the church’s position as part of British governance.