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Big Society – not a “fig leaf” for putting the vulnerable at risk?

by ben last modified 17 Nov, 2010 04:03 PM

The Bishop of Ramsbury, Stephen Conway, warned the Government this weekend...

Big Society – not a “fig leaf” for putting the vulnerable at risk?

The Bishop of Ramsbury, Stephen Conway

...that “the Big Society agenda must not be allowed to be the fig leaf which seeks to cover such a drastic rolling back of the state that would put the vulnerable at risk”.

Bishop Conway was addressing bishops, clergy and laity at a meeting of the Salisbury Diocesan Synod – his final address to Synod before he moves to be Bishop of Ely in the New Year.

The Bishop was upbeat about the contribution of volunteers in the current economic climate. He also underlined the key message of hope offered by the church in challenging times: “Any assessment of the Big Society must take account of our calling to be a Big Church. We have nothing to say to our society unless that is our hope. We expect to be a big space into which many new disciples are welcome.”

Bishop Conway told Synod members: “I have been uncomfortable about the way people have been throwing around the word ‘big’ so carelessly of late.

He added: “Our Coalition Government is working hard to prove that the national interest is bigger than party advantage, and I applaud this wholeheartedly. Dealing with the deficit is urgent and all of us are going to have to accept our share of the grief. No one gains from a huge burden of public debt.

“……However, the spending cuts as so far described will not have an equal impact across society. Those who are already poor will get poorer.”

The Bishop said that the extent of support offered by volunteers should not be underestimated: “I thank God that so many Christian people from all of our churches are members of parish councils, deliver meals on wheels, run credit unions, assist in charity shops, serve as school governors, hear children read, do hospital and prison visiting, care for loved ones at home and save the state a fortune, collect food for food banks outside supermarkets, run youth clubs, scout and guide groups, act as street pastors, help run conservation projects, support international mission and justice organisations.”



Issued by Rob Marshall
Church of England
Diocese of Salisbury
24 Hour Media Office
01482 562455

The text of the address may be found here.

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