What is a Faith Minister for?
Back in 2016, Christian Today, under the headline “Theresa May sidelines the role of faith minister”, complained that faith had been downgraded when she took over as Prime Minister from David Cameron.
CT said that faith issues were no longer being handled by a senior government official as they had in the past but a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Alongside his responsibilities for religion, he also oversees community cohesion, race equality, troubled families, domestic refuges, travellers policy and is in charge of the Syrian Refugees Programme, said CT, suggesting that Lord Bourne had so much on his plate that he couldn’t possibly do give religion the attention it deserves.
Not so, Lord Bourne told Christian news site, Premier, in 2016.
Before the election in 2015 Baroness Warsi and Eric Pickles, above, both had the job of Faith Minister and a seat in Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition cabinet.
In an exclusive interview with Premier he was asked if he agreed with Warsi and Pickles’ opinion that there should be a specific Minister for Faith. He replied:
There is, it’s me. I’m very content to be doing the job that I’m doing, it’s a very important job and I think that I’m giving it all the attention that it needs.
I’m certainly getting round to faith communities and to different parts of the country to tackle and to discuss the issues that really matter to people.
He added that his experience over the past four months in the role is that faith groups working in their local community were:
Almost uniformly … doing an excellent job. There are terrific religious faith groups that do a lot of work.
Lord Bourne also said the Prime Minister’s Christian beliefs meant she had a “feeling for the underdog” and was “somebody who dislikes unfairness”.
He then made an earth-shattering announcement: he would tour of all of England’s cathedrals to better understand their continued importance both to local communities and wider society.
Well – hallalujah! – that crucially important work has now been completed, according to Premier, and the British public can rejoice in the fact that, after Bourne had toured all of England’s 42 Anglican cathedrals, an official government report had now been published – Cathedrals and their communities: a report on the diverse roles of cathedrals in modern England.
The report commends the cathedrals for their continued importance as places of worship, their wider community work and their commitment to promoting local economic growth has been published today by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It highlights cathedrals as:
Diverse churches that are not only important sacred centres of worship but also places of valued social support and community and interfaith engagement.
There is no better time to remind ourselves of the strong role cathedrals play in our national life than at Christmas, as worshippers gather in naves across the country to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
This year-long tour has given me a real understanding of how the innovation and vibrancy displayed by cathedral staff and their congregations is ensuring that these important churches continue to play a crucial role at the heart of local communities now and for centuries to come.
The Very Reverend Adrian Dorber, Chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals, also added:
Lord Bourne’s report is a really helpful endorsement of all that our English cathedrals are trying to be and do. We want to continue as places of welcome and be able to offer spiritual hospitality and friendship to all. We’re grateful to the Government for taking the time and trouble to conduct such a thorough programme of visits and investigation and for finding out what we do and what our ambitions for the future are. I hope the report will be widely read.
Our evangelist friend Bob Hutton is not impressed. He left this comment beneath the Premier report:
The money wasted on the up keep (sic) of these buildings should be spent on employing evangelists to go out with the message of the Gospel so that people can be saved from eternal damnation. An ornate building may look nice, but it doesn’t save a single soul from Hell.
Running short of dosh, eh, Bob?