In an occasional series on
ConservativeHome, we are profiling groups within the Conservative
Party that focus on specific issues or the involvement of particular
sections of society. Elizabeth Berridge profiles the Conservative Christian Fellowship today, of which she is the Director. If you would like your group to be profiled please email Tim.
Just over 15 years ago in “digs” at Exeter University two students, Tim Montgomerie and David Burrowes founded the Conservative Christian Fellowship. During its relatively short history the CCF has promoted, well before it was fashionable, the “Compassionate Conservative” agenda and birthed the “Renewing One Nation” think tank which sought to secure social justice as a concern for those on the right of the political spectrum. But like all young organisations its focus has evolved and the CCF, although retaining its independence from the party structure, is today a relational bridge for the party as well as a membership organisation.
But isn’t church membership declining, why bother with the church, I hear you say. Don’t believe all you read in the newspapers is what I would reply. Yes, in some areas churches are in decline, as seen by the party converting a disused church in Bournemouth to be a community centre. However, should you visit Bournemouth train station on a Sunday just go to the old B and Q Warehouse next to the station to see hundreds of people including many young people at church. And should you try and go to see “We Will Rock You” at the Dominion Theatre on a Sunday you will find 5,000 people attending church there. Finally if you are not yet convinced, the largest Black denomination has a gathering in East London with 25,000 adults and 5,000 twice yearly from 8pm until 5.30am on a Friday night!
But this is not just about numbers. As we have seen of late, the church
is becoming more politically engaged. Also, some of the best social
action projects are run by the Christian community. Youth workers who
will move and live in an area of deprivation to bring hope to the young
people in that area, drug rehabilitation work, a nationwide debt
counselling service, Streetpastors, work to reduce re-offending and the
list goes on.
So as well as protesting on issues of freedom of
conscience and few doubt the role that the Christian lobbyists played
amongst others, in defeating the government’s Racial and Religious
Hatred Bill, the church is engaging in society. And just like it should
I would say. But returning briefly to numbers, approximately 8% in the
UK still attend church, 72% still culturally identified themselves as
Christian in the 2001 Census and approximately 40% of the Black
community are in church. An electoral force it would be foolish to
So the CCF organises a number of events which seek to bring in the
Christian community to hear what the Conservative Party is doing.
Hence, David Cameron and Iain Duncan-Smith held a discussion forum for
over 100 leaders from the Black church community in October 2006. And
why Bishop James Jones and David Cameron will share a platform with
leaders from the African and Afro-Caribbean community to commemorate
the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in March. (Go
to our new-look website to get your ticket) But this is
not just about events as I believe any political party needs
relationships with different communities that outlive the electoral
I have spoken much of the Conservative and Christian aspect of our name
but I do not forget that for our members we are a fellowship. We seek
to train, support and equip our members to be the best witness for
Christ and the best Conservatives that they can possibly be. For
instance, we try and bring our members together who are local
councillors to share experiences and encourage one another. We also
run an Under 35’s Development Course which is 5 residential weekends
over one year together with mentoring and course reading.
And that 72% of the UK who say they are culturally Christian have not
been forgotten. Watch this space to subscribe to the only periodical
that will be centre-right written from a Christian worldview. So from
humble beginnings but great founders we trust God that the CCF will
carry on going from strength to strength.