For whose benefit?

John & Olive on 2churchmice's blog posted a thought provoking article today. Some readers may know that churches are now required to register as charitees (something many of us have not needed to do until now) and the Charity Commissioners are working aplan to get all churches registered by 2012 (starting with those who have an income of over £100,000 and then working down).

One of the areas of concern for many churches has been the need to demonstrate that they have some public benefit, a necessary condition for charitable status.

Well, the Commission has published its report into the matter and you can download the .pdf here.

John & Olive write (in the midst of a longer and brilliant post):
Now the report is out, it looks as if the Charity Commission has more confidence in the transformational power of the Gospel than some Christians, as they clearly state that ‘Charities whose aims include advancing religion do not have to undertake secular activities in addition to their religious activities in order to meet the public-benefit requirement’.

More interesting still is the fact that missional activities are specifically singled out as a key way in which Christians might demonstrate their care for their fellow citizens – by reaching out to others and sharing the good news.

I posted the comment below, and I'd be interested to hear your views:

I can’t really begin to count the number of times I’ve been encouraged to write, pray, complain, or be fearful about some piece of government legislation or other that was going to restrict the Church’s ability to be the kind of Christ-centred, loving, missional and generous community we’re called to be.

I wonder if we need to feel targetted and oppressed, as this gives us an excuse for not living up to the freedom that is, in reality, ours?

If we shrink away, and proclaim that we’re not actually doing that badly given all the oppression we’re under, and that it’s no wonder we’re in decline with the government, the culture, the media and everyone against us, then we have a ready explanation for the decline we experience.

If we come face to face with the reality that we are free, that society doesn’t hate us, that faith is not only welcome but encouraged in our culture, then we have to ask some very scary questions about what we’re doing. Challenging-everything kinda scary. Questioning what pastors have been doing scary. Shining a light on where we use resources kinda scary. And questioning the validity or understanding of most people’s faith kinda scary.

Far easier to hide under this oppressive rock…Don’t shine the light…


Anonymous said…
It would appear that in future, churches will have to re-write their Mission and Value Statemens (Aims & Benfits?) and Constitutions to adhere/cover the below requirments:

Principle 1: There must be an identifiable benefit or benefits
1a It must be clear what the benefits are
1b The benefits must be related to the aims
1c Benefits must be balanced against any detriment or harm

Principle 2: Benefit must be to the public, or section of the public
2a The beneficiaries must be appropriate to the aims
2b Where benefit is to a section of the public, the opportunity to benefit must
not be unreasonably restricted:
• by geographical or other restrictions;
• by ability to pay any fees charged
2c People in poverty must not be
excluded from the opportunity to
2d Any private benefits must be incidental

As regards your 'Scary' paragraph - this is a major challenge we should be very excited about - let's get out of that boat !

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