The movement to channel welfare through faith-based organizations that has been so prominent in the U.S. is also gaining support and generating controversy in Britain.
The British charismatic magazine Renewal (January) reports that Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative Party leader William Hague have pressed for new partnerships with the voluntary sector to deal with problems such as drug addiction, teen pregnancy and other effects of poverty. The Conservative draft manifesto was the most explicit on the subject, declaring that “the next Conservative government will support the institutions that keep our communities together — families, charities, and places of worship.
But Steve Chalke writes that the “rhetoric is one thing, the reality another. Churches often find themselves discriminated against purely on the grounds of their religious convictions. For a whole host of reasons — from the groundless suspicion that all Christian care is really a covert attempt at proselytism to straightforward anti-Christian prejudice — a great many churches and Christian charities find themselves constantly having to `hide their light under a bushel’ in their dealings with statutory bodies [in order to receive funding].”
There is a widespread practice of excluding what is “regarded as the `subjective element’ of faith from funded community work.” In the British magazine The Tablet (Jan. 20), Margaret Harris writes that such U.S. proponents as Marvin Olasky have influenced the current drive for welfare reform in England. And as in the U.S., the regulations and other qualifications coming with government assistance have led some British faith-based social services, such as Catholic charities, to “question or reject such funding of their work.”
(Renewal, Broadway House, The Broadway, Crowborough, East Sussex TN6 1HQ, UK)