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St Albans Diocesan Synod 14th March 2015 Engaging with Civil Society beyond the General Election Prof Chris Baker, Director of Research William Temple.

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Presentation on theme: "St Albans Diocesan Synod 14th March 2015 Engaging with Civil Society beyond the General Election Prof Chris Baker, Director of Research William Temple."— Presentation transcript:

1 St Albans Diocesan Synod 14th March 2015 Engaging with Civil Society beyond the General Election Prof Chris Baker, Director of Research William Temple Foundation William Temple Professor of Religion and Public Life, University of Chester

2 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk 4 dynamics shaping the relationship between religion and the public sphere 1) Religion has struck a chord – but is this simply a pre-election blip? 2) A Postsecular public sphere? – The new visibility of Religion in the 21 st century 3) The rise of spiritual capital – the search for deeper values in public life and the impetus to act upon them (since 2008?) 4) Progressive Localism? – what does this looks like at the local level? – Three Case Studies

3 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk A change in the Political Weather? The Bishops’ Pastoral letter ‘[expresses the] longing for a more humane society that reflects St Paul’s injunction – a better politics for a better nation. Amen you might say to that’ Will Hutton They’re calling on us to make a leap of faith – not to a belief in eternal life, but to the liberal conviction that society is better, that collectively and individually we’ll be happier, if we look for and expect the best in each other, if our first instinct is compassion, not anger David Mitchell

4 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk Are we now living in a postsecular public sphere – the new visibility of religion in the 21 st century? Empirical reality – post-Soviet Europe; 84% of the world’s citizens identify with a religious identity Moral reality – need to reconnect with religious sources of wisdom in response to the threat to democracy from neo-liberal globalised capitalism We need to adopt ‘a postsecular self-understanding of society as whole in which the vigorous continuation of religion in a continually secularizing environment must be reckoned with’(Habermas 2006)

5 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk Spiritual capital – the search for norms and deeper values. Vital element in the creation of social capital - the importance of relationships, networks and norms that can be used to enrich individuals and communities The resilience and effectiveness of faith-based contribution to social capital is the dynamic interplay the what and why Religious capital is, ‘the practical contribution to local and national life made by faith groups’ (i.e. the what) Spiritual capital meanwhile, ‘energises religious capital by providing a theological identity and worshipping tradition, but also a value system, moral vision and a basis of faith’(the why)

6 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk Leveraging the ethical and political power of spiritual capital? Spiritual capital not the sole preserve of citizens attending religious institutions, but is, in terms of its properties as a value system and moral vision, a motivating force for those outside formal religious affiliation. In other words there is such a thing as secular spiritual capital. The emergence of the postsecular debate highlights the importance of leveraging the ethical and political power of everyone’s spiritual capital. In a postsecular public space we must create the freedom to experiment with multiple discourses, multiple visions of the truth and multiple expressions of identity. Post 2008?

7 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk Progressive Localism – new microspaces of postsecular politics and citizenship? Progressive localism is an attitude of mind and political approach that is: ‘outward looking and creates positive affinities between places and social groups negotiating global processes. These affinity groups and networks are expansive in their geographical reach and productive of new relations between places and social groups. They can reconfigure existing communities around emergent agendas for social justice, participation and tolerance. (Featherstone et al. “Progressive localism and the construction of political alternatives” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37:

8 Three case studies of faith-based/faith- inspired progressive localism Hodge Hill - some politicising moments From ‘centre of community’ to ‘treasure seeker’ (joining conversations and hearing into speech) From service provider to threshold maker (creating alternative spaces – Open Door and the 5 Ps Engaging wider conversations - Naming our ‘addiction’ to the ‘service industry’ What can we do with ‘neighbourhood power’? What do we need some external support with? What do we need external agencies to do?

9 Hodge Hill – Key Indicators of Impact (‘postcapitalist politics’ – JK Gibson-Graham – i.e. it’s already happening all over the place, if we look for it) Localising food & energy (cf Transition Towns) Non-money economies & local ‘commons’ Radical hospitality (who do we welcome / value / listen to?) Local ‘public squares’ (OUEs different to city centre! Places for digging into the issues, exploring, contesting, imagining) Sustainable ‘church’ (when the big building, the vicar, and the institution have disappeared) (e.g. Community Houses in HH)

10 Sufra Food Bank and Community Kitchen Mohamed Mumdani Sufra – a polyphonic word – tablecloth, dining room, space of hospitality Food bank in Brent – 46 tons of food 3000 referrals – 90% non-Muslim First customer was Stephen – no idea what to do with the food he was given Community Kitchen – 10 session course Apprenticeship schemes (25 employed in catering trade) Vocational advice Election hustings 2015

11 Sufra - Key Indicators of Impact Not the end of the road but the start of a new journey for those who access the foodbank. Sufra aspires to be an organisation where people of different faiths and no-faith could ‘take part in social action together, fundraise together, and share resources together’ to create what he calls a ‘sustainable common purpose’.

12 Bristol Pound (Genesis of) Revd Chris Sunderland Greatest challenges and opportunities revolve around our relationship with creation Earth Abbey – former vicarage garden – Growzone – community food growing project Chooseday – City wide campaign for leaving cars at home People ‘with a spiritual heart’ but ‘suspicious of formalised Christianity’ Idea for a Local currency emerged

13 Bristol Pound (impacts) A local currency to give people a taste of a different form of money, that was embedded in the local economy and could produce a new values-led community of exchange. ‘We need to do a currency that is city-wide and uses both electronic and printed media’. That was our root commitment that stayed with us through the next three years preparation for launch. Gradually a team grew around this core idea. Others had been thinking along similar lines. They were not necessarily people of faith. In post-Christendom society, it is very hard for any project that is actively identified with a faith organisation to become more than a niche concern.

14 Bristol Pound – Impacts 700 businesses and 1300 individuals that are part of the scheme The electronic system is the heart of our exchange. In the four weeks over Christmas our total exchange 30,000 BPs across the city An energy supplier, working to achieve major public procurement contracts in Bristol Pounds Developing a new business to business credit facility A new Co-operative, called Real Economy: brings people in touch with local producers, encourage uptake of fresh food, with minimal waste, through using buying groups that order their food using a bespoke webtool

15 Summary of Faith-based contributions to a sustainable Politics of Hope Hearing stories’ of ordinary (and often stigmatised) people into speech, ‘nurturing informal affinities’ of partnership by providing the necessary skilled and empathic leadership; ‘putting out ideas’ that represent new and alternative visions of community and relationships that everyone can gather round. Faith communities as pivotal hubs and curators of new expressions of postsecular citizenship and a deeper form of politics based on a renewed sense of hope and resilience rather than the antipolitics of despair.

16 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk What does progressive localism (i.e. outward-focussed praxis) look like on the ground? New spaces, new affinities and new practices = new type of leadership? Political credibility emerges from authenticity and direct engagement with issues. (Are we bold enough to own this credibility?) Can spiritual revival lead to both religious and political revival?

17 williamtemplefoundation.org.uk Group Discussions At please be in the following deanery groups for 20 minute discussion on the questions listed on the handout. 1. Berkhamsted – WheathampsteadMeeting Room 2. Hemel – WatfordFoyer 3. Barnet – RickmansworthCoffee Area 4. St Albans – Welwyn HatfieldCoffee Area 5. Hertford Ware – CheshuntCoffee Area 6. Bishops Stortford – BuntingfordCoffee Area 7. Stevenage – HitchinMain Hall 8. Luton – DunstableMain Hall 9. Amptihill/Shefford – BiggleswadeMain Hall 10. Bedford – SharnbrookMain Hall For more information visit; anglican.org/faith/involved-politics/


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