Stephen welcomes "Holy Alliances"

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Stephen has spoken at the launch of a new Demos report, Holy Alliances: Church-secular partnerships for social good.

The report found that more churches are partnering with non-faith voluntary organisations to tackle local issues such as poverty, mental health and loneliness. It is based on a survey of 120 church leaders, 10 expert interviews and 12 case study interviews, and reveals that churches are almost four times as likely to partner with non-faith voluntary organisations (23%) than businesses (6%) to tackle these challenges.

The report calls for local authorities to seek to address any practical barriers to partnership working between churches and non-Christian groups, such as making funding for social action projects more accessible to churches. It also makes a number of other recommendations, including the discouragement of blanket policies against working with faith groups, and for local authorities to introduce the Faith Covenant, which is administered by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society, which Stephen chairs.

Speaking at the event: “There has been a marked increase in social action by churches in the last ten years. At the same time, many of them are working with non-Christian organisations to tackle social issues.

“Churches - and many other faith groups too - are making a remarkable social impact. In many neighbourhoods, where many institutions have pulled out, the Church is sometimes the only one left. In those situations, it represents hope.”

The report can be read here.

Stephen highlights the role of faith groups in national tragedy

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Stephen has spoken at a panel event highlighting London’s growing religiosity and the significance of faith groups in moments of national tragedy. Organised by the University of Kent Understanding Unbelief Programme and the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the event explored belief and unbelief in such crises.

Last year NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Survey revealed that 52% of people now identify as having no religion. These trends were explored by speakers at the event such as lead researcher for the Unbelief project, Dr Lois Lee.

Stephen commented, however, that this data did not tell the whole story. He highlighted recent research on the desecularisation of London showing that Sunday church attendance in London is now around 10% higher than it was in 1979, and the number of congregations 50% higher. He noted that in Newham around 260 churches had been founded and remain in operation since 1975.

Stephen went on to explore the role of faith groups in moments of national tragedy such as terror attacks or most recently Grenfell, as highlighted in recent Theos research. At the event, those practically involved in pastoral work and crisis response such as Simon O’Donoghue from Humanists UK and Mark Harris of Samaritans noted the need for collaboration, pastoral sensitivity and to seek out nonreligious voices for media comment.

Stephen commented afterwards: “I am convinced that without faith groups, our crisis response would be much poorer. I was delighted to be at the event to explore how people of faith can best support believers and unbelievers in such crises.”

Sadiq Khan hails 'fantastic' Church response to Windrush scandal

The Mayor of London has described the way churches across the UK have been responding to the Windrush scandal as "fantastic".

Sadiq Khan said the way some members of the Windrush generation had been treated amounted to a "stain on the nation's conscience". He wen on to say in an interview with Premier Radio: "There is no better example of the advocacy role of churches in our city and country than the fantastic role they've played helping the Windrush generation, their children and their descendants."

Sadiq was speaking as he unveiled £20,000 to help affected families seek legal advice via the Windrush Justice Fund and apply via the Home Office Windrush scheme for citizenship.

Church leaders joined Sadiq in urging the Government to ensure members of the Windrush generation are treated fairly.

Stephen launches report on faith and development

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Last week, Stephen hosted the launch of a major report on faith, development and the Sustainable Development Goals in Parliament.

‘Keeping Faith in 2030: Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals’ was launched at the House of Commons at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society, which Stephen chairs. The report’s authors, Emma Tomalin of Leeds University and Dr Jörg Haustein of SOAS, discussed its key themes together with Professor Carole Rakodi of the University of Birmingham and Emma Bridger from the United Society Partners in the Gospel.

The report emphasises the importance of understanding religious dynamics and the role of faith communities and actors for sustainable development. It particularly explores how faith actors are interacting with the UN Sustainable Development Goals in practice.

The panel highlighted the need to bring in faith actors as full development partners within sector conversations. They emphasised the need for religious literacy to be increased in NGOs and governments, both abroad and in the UK. They also recommended more investment to spread knowledge about the SDGs to local faith actors to enable them to fully participate in the sustainable development agenda.

Speaking afterwards, Stpehen said: “Since launching the APPG in 2012 we’ve known that overseas development is one area we are seeing faith-based organisations make particular impact. Understanding that religion is deeply embedded in societies and people's lives across the world is key to best development practice, so I’m delighted to be able to highlight this important research.”

Jeremy Corbyn supports Christians on the Left's conference campaign

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Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has lent his support to Christians conference campaign and encouraged members to act on their '10 commandments'.

The Labour Party Conference is currently taking place in Liverpool. Jeremy attended the annual church service on Sunday hosted by Christians on the Left and the Christian food bank charity the Trussel Trust, where the main theme was unity.

The party leader also took a photo with the Christians on the Left campaign frame and tweeted that the service was: "Uplifting, positive, and beautiful service with Christians on the Left this morning, and I'm proud to endorse their #LoveYourCLP campaign. We must never pass by on the other side when people in our communities are in need."

Speaking after the service, Tom Bray-Field of Christians on the Left, told Premier Radio, said: "This morning we had a fantastic prayer breakfast where we were able to have Stephen Timms MP and Marsha de Codova MP. We were praying, talking about their policies and praying for their work.

"We just want to engage with members across the Labour party to kinda say 'The Church, or faith or Jesus is here and open to a conversation with you. And to say to the church that the Labour party is open to listen to the campaigns that we have, the areas of injustice and inequality that we campaign on,” he added.