Gordon Brown becomes our Prime Minister today. I believe he stands at a turning point in history. The last ten years of Labour government has created a healthier framework for a cohesive society, but the new PM must be careful not to allow the good work of the last decade to be unravelled.
There is still huge confusion over what it means to be a British citizen, and how we can have a culture of equality which also allows diversity to flourish. Gordon Brown faces a choice, which could make or break the citizenship agenda: will he continue to support the efforts by faith groups to develop and maintain a cohesive, healthy society that respects diversity, or will he bow to an increasingly aggressive secularist agenda that says we should cut faith out of the agenda altogether?
I call on Gordon Brown to show recognition that Christian faith is not just another service provider, but the most significant motivational factor in why millions of people do what they do in engaging with the poor and excluded in our communities.
The members of the Faithworks Movement and thousands of other agencies across the country are committed to unconditional service, the principles of working for genuine public benefit, and inclusive and compassionate community engagement. I am not calling for churches to have a place of unearned privilege in society, but for a recognition of the unstinting contribution to healthy communities being made by 48,000 expressions of Christian community across the UK.
In particular, I ask for Gordon Brown's premiership to be characterised by:
- A recognition of the local church's intrinsic commitment to and value in serving communities unconditionally.
- Development of partnerships that build on the successes of the last decade, and avoid the pitfalls of short-termism, particularly in funding agreements.
- A greater widespread understanding of faith as a motivator for volunteering and engaging with communities.
- A recognition of the vast resources the church has contributed and continues to contribute to the establishment of healthy communities.
- Ensuring that faith has a fair and equitable place in civil society and in dialogue over how we address deep-rooted issues.
There is still much to be achieved if Britain is to become a truly fair and equitable society, and efforts will ultimately be fruitless unless faith communities are at the heart of it. If the role of faith is tilted out, society will disintegrate.
I welcome Gordon Brown's appointment as Prime Minister. He has been outstanding in his commitment to the eradication of poverty on the international stage, and a key force in government policy on child deprivation and exclusion in the UK. The election of Harriet Harman as his deputy also brings a welcome male-female balance. They have my best wishes and prayers.
So, what are your hopes for our new PM? I'd love to hear what you think.