The contribution of the churches in social policy and social change is the focus of a research report published this year by the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at Otago University. The report Making a Difference: Faith-Based Organisations Contributing to Social Change in Aotearoa written by Dr Richard Davis, gives some insight into the role played by faith-based organisations (FBOs) such as NZCCSS in the social and political debate in this country.
In an opinion piece for the Otago Daily Times Professor David Tombs, Director of the Centre comments that if “FBOs and churches are to contribute effectively to social change, and not just provide social support, they must find ways to address policy makers on political matters. Making a Difference: Faith-Based Organisations Contributing to Social Change in Aotearoa was originally commissioned from Otago’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues by the Bishop’s Action Foundation (BAF), to offer insights into how BAF can work most effectively.”
The University has this year launched a new master’s degree on ”Faith-Based Leadership and Management” https://www.otago.ac.nz/courses/subjects/fblm.html and the report has been published as an open-access resource for Otago students and the general public.
The report explores the work of the churches in social policy debates through the eyes of a group of people who have been actively involved with that work. The nuclear-free campaign, advocacy on poverty and inequality, and the Living Wage movement are among the campaign experiences that the interviewees reflect on.
When asked what the distinctive Christian contribution is, one respondent summarised it in this way: “the church should walk humbly as citizens of the country and be a powerful force for good, and be seen to be a powerful voice for good, without always waving a Christian flag.” Faith-based organisations should look to what is going on, focus on the data and the impact on human lives, and respond in love.