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Building Back Better Conference: The Church and Social Cohesion

Building Back Better Conference: The Church and Social Cohesion

Theos and the Free Churches Group launch a report assessing the impact of churches on social cohesion.

The toxicity of the Brexit debate, a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, and the struggle to balance personal freedom with group responsibility throughout the COVID–19 pandemic have not only made clear how vitally important social cohesion is, but have also underlined that cohesive societies do not just happen by accident. Rather, time and effort are required to build up social capital over time – and this report particularly uncovers the many ways in which the nation’s churches are offering this time and effort in abundance.

The Church and Social Cohesion: Connecting Communities and Serving People is the culmination of a major research project commissioned by the Free Churches Group and prepared by Theos think tank, which has consulted with over 360 people in England to assess the churches’ social cohesion contribution on the ground.

In contrast to the crisis–driven approach of the major cohesion policy interventions of the last 20 years, The Church and Social Cohesion concentrates on the range of church–based assets that are fostering positive cohesion outcomes away from the headlines: buildings, social networks, convening power, leadership, volunteer capacity, and (perhaps most importantly) vision for the transformation of their communities. Moreover, it observes the Christian motivations behind this day–to–day community engagement, and unpacks the different ways these motivations can play out in the churches’ relationships with other organizations, whether public sector representatives, other faith communities, or indeed other churches.

Finally, it offers a number of practical recommendations for how both churches and policymakers can maximize the churches’ potential to foster social cohesion in the community. Churches are an important element of the nation’s social fabric, and the cohesiveness of our societies will grow stronger if churches and policymakers alike recognize the distinctive assets that they have to offer.

Join us for the virtual launch of this report on November 26th 2020 at 10.30am hosted by FaithAction, to listen to a presentation from Theos on the findings of the report and participate in a panel discussion chaired by the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP featuring:

  • Hugh Osgood, Moderator of the Free Churches Group
  • Madeleine Pennington, Head of Research at Theos
  • Joel Edwards, former General Director of the Evangelical Alliance
  • Manmit Bhambra, Research Officer at the LSE’s Religion and Global Society Research Unit

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 Image by ultramansk under a shutterstock licence.

Madeleine Pennington

Madeleine Pennington

Madeleine is Head of Research at Theos. She holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford, and previously worked as a research scholar at a retreat and education centre in Philadelphia. She is the author of ‘The Christian Quaker: George Keith and the Keithian Controversy’ (Brill: 2019), ‘Quakers, Christ and the Enlightenment’ (OUP, 2021), ‘The Church and Social Cohesion: Connecting Communities and Serving People’ (Theos, 2020), and ‘Cohesive Societies: Faith and Belief’ (British Academy, 2020). Outside of Theos, she sits on the Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations.

Watch, listen to or read more from Madeleine Pennington

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