Monday, 24 January 2011

The Politics of Hope

Do we expect too little from our politicians...and do we expect too little from our churches?

These were some of the questions central to the conference - Poverty of Ambition: Churches and a Politics of Hope - held on 22 January 2011, and organised by the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.

Around 170 people gathered in Birmingham to hear Will Hutton, broadcaster and journalist, talk about why Britain needs to be fair. He argued that a desire for fairness is something hard-wired into the human condition. Andrew Stunell MP, parliamentary undersecretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, spoke about the Churches and the Big Society. He argued that churches need to seize opportunities and not wait to be given permission. He heard concerns from many in the audience that the spending cuts were going to squeeze rather than facilitate the Big Society.

The workshops in the afternoon included sessions on peacemaking and militarism, debt, poverty, eco-congregations, and how to get our churches interested in public issues.

Participants were asked to put on a display board their dreams for how churches might engage in public issues, any questions they had, and what experiences or inspirations they could offer.

If you couldn't attend the conference, the speeches by Will Hutton and Andrew Stunell can be heard here. The Vice President of the Methodist Conference, Deacon Eunice Attwood, who attended the conference has blogged about the day here. Summaries of the ideas and questions raised, and the outcomes of the workshops will soon be on the Joint Public Issues Team website. And we will be looking to build up a Public Issues Network of people who are interested in working with us and with each other to help our churches to engage with a politics of hope. If you are interested in any of this, please email us at for more information...