Church can help create Big Society, says the Bishop of Leicester
The Bishop of Leicester last night talked about the challenges of building the Prime Minister's Big Society.
The Right Rev Tim Stevens also spoke about the place of religion in public and the gift of children during a lecture at Leicester Cathedral.
About 100 people turned out to hear his speech, which was his last as trustee board chairman of The Children's Society.
Bishop Tim said the charity had a "special opportunity" to make a contribution when communities are given control of more powers to run services by the Government. And he stressed the important role of the Church of England and Christianity in general in helping to achieve that goal.
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In his speech, made at the charity's annual Edward Rudolf lecture last night, Bishop Tim said: "It is through partnerships with the Church and through effective engagement with parishes and congregations that The Children's Society has a special opportunity to build the social capital which is going to be increasingly needed as the state contracts.
"Simply hoping that the Big Society emerges from the space left by a contracting state is not good enough. It's going to need high quality leadership, especially in the voluntary sector, and especially from those parts of the voluntary sector which can mobilise partners who are steeped in a religious tradition and understand something of the values which that tradition speaks of."
David Cameron's Big Society was the flagship policy idea of the Conservative Party's General Election manifesto, which aims "to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will take power away from politicians and give it to people".
Last night, the Bishop also stressed the importance of maintaining a focus on the "general well-being".
He said: "It was actually David Cameron who made a speech a few years ago which included these words: 'It's time we admitted that there is more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB – general well-being'. We need to keep reminding the Prime Minister that he said that.
"This kind of rhetoric has somewhat disappeared in the face of the pressures on the public finances.
"So here again, a charity with a clear Christian vision has an opportunity to state boldly what makes for a values system which fosters well-being and which acts as a corrective to the human inclination towards greed and materialism that are so dominant in our overwhelmingly consumerist culture."
Bishop Tim is standing down from his role after six years as chairman of the society, which helps some of the UK's most disadvantaged children.
Following his speech, charity supporters said they would be sad to see him go.
Patrick Carty, 17, from Manchester, a young representative for the Society, said: "It's a great charity in the way it helps young people. I though the speech was good, it was good to hear what Bishop Tim has got to say. He's an entertaining guy."
Former Lord Mayor, Councillor Roger Blackmore, said: "It was a very interesting talk, especially the idea of well-being and the things that are really important to people."