Faith in the City 1985
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In the autumn of 1985 the report, Faith in the City. A Call to Action by Church and Nation, was published by the Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Urban Priority Areas. The report came in the wake of much concern about what was happening in British inner city and outer council housing estate communities. Faith in the City was crucial in sparking new awareness of the emerging gaps in society, gaps which had become painfully apparent in the riots of the summers of 1981 and 1985.
A call to the nation
Historically the Commission met during what was the first half of Margaret Thatcher's second term of office as Prime Minister. There had been little explicit policy change during her first term in office regarding urban regeneration. What the report designated as 'Urban Priority Areas' did however feel the harsh impact of other policies as unemployment increased, public spending and taxation were reduced and a change in approach to the welfare state was initiated. The policies which put the market to the fore were beginning to take effect: it was claimed that the 'slump years' were over as inflation was reduced and privatisation caught the public imagination. Many of the problems highlighted stemmed from changes in society which could be associated with the demise of traditional industry. Other factors identified included estate design; institutional racism; poor quality housing; and lack of investment in educational and social services.
A call to the Church
Duncan Forrester saw a vital connection between the vision of the report for the nation and its thinking concerning the Church: 'Only when the Church is serious about setting its own house in order can it call on the state to do justly and love mercy'. Faith in the City put some vital markers on the Church of England's agenda. Concern was expressed at the level of church attendance, the failure of congregations to play a leading role in community life, the cultural gap emerging between perceived Church life and UPA people and the failure of theological education to prepare ministers for the needs and dynamics of UPA parishes. The report carried recommendations about the training and selection of UPA people for ministry and a UPA input in all theological training, the establishment of a mechanism for the promotion of Black Anglican Concerns, and the review of policies concerning education, building use and social responsibility. Faith in the City led to the establishment of the Church Urban Fund to 'strengthen the Church's presence and promote the Christian witness in urban priority areas'.
In the years since the report's publication many of the problems faced by inner city and outer estate communities have failed to disappear. At the same time changes in industry, employment, migration, local government and programmes from central government, have led to a very different scene in which the churches now engage. In 2003 the Commission on Urban Life and Faith was established to report on the twentieth anniversary of Faith in the City on the new contexts and challenges that exist in our towns and cities. The Commission reported in 2006 through the report Faithful Cities.