The Anglican Social Justice Network resources site has backed a newly released report on how Faith-Based Organisations (FBO) can best advocate in New Zealand’s secular political sphere to improve conditions for the last, the lost and the least.
The report, ‘Making a Difference: Faith-Based Organisations Contributing to Social Change in Aotearoa’ was revised and updated in 2018, from research first carried out by Dr Richard Davis* in 2013 through the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, at the University of Otago, on behalf of the Taranaki-based Bishop’s Action Foundation (BAF).
The Making a Difference report establishes what factors help or hinder Faith-Based Organisations’ political advocacy, including which methods of engagement gain churches and their agencies the greatest traction toward positive Government policy change.
The report looks at Aotearoa New Zealand’s changing political and social environment over the late 20th and early 21st centuries, when the churches’ voice was relocated as ‘one of many’ instead of acting as a ‘go to moral authority’.
It also tracks downward shifts in public attitudes to church authority, due to declining church attendances, and growing criticism and ignorance of Christianity's role in society. It shows how this meant, for instance, that church leaders could no longer appeal to widely understood theological principles when making political statements in the public square.
The research proposes that churches and their agencies will be more effective by speaking gospel truths in language that secular listeners can relate to. It also emphasises how churches need to invest in expert research for their own policy development, and FBOs speak most credibly out of their proven strengths, such as in social services and widespread pastoral knowledge of communities’ needs.
The research, which looks at churches’ work in broader social change, as well as parliamentary processes and meetings, has informed and guided the Taranaki Bishop’s Action Foundation social justice strategy and policies for some time, particularly in its commitment to research and evidence-based analysis.
You can download the 60-page report from Otago University’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues here: ‘Making a Difference: Faith-Based Organisations Contributing to Social Change in Aotearoa’
*Dr Richard A. Davis is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theology and Ethics at Pacific Theological College in Fiji.