Rev Dr Gordon Moyes The Superintendent Writes
A weekly column by Rev Dr Gordon Moyes, Superintendent of Wesley Mission.
February 4th, 2001
 

For more than twenty five years I have been lecturing in America about how churches in Australia have been very active in caring for the homeless, the poor, the sick, the prisoner and the unemployed, and how we believe in a ministry of word and deed. I have also explained how our churches lobby governments for funding to support this work of people from the community, who by and large, are not Christians and mostly not associated with any church. The Americans always find it hard to understand because they are blinkered by their constitutional separation of church and state. This has to do with religion dominating government, not with governments supporting welfare.

However, this week America caught up. President Bush has declared as national policy the goal of involving faith-based and community organizations in solving the nation's social problems. Hurrah! Now the poor can be really helped. Churches can be challenged into their social responsibility which they pushed off onto the Government. This week, President Bush unveiled his plan for promoting "faith-based solutions." The priority given it is symbolized by the fact that it was the second initiative of his presidency. He devoted this week to gaining public support.

Bush spoke about InnerChange, the prison run in Texas by Prison Fellowship, which he approved three years ago as governor. Truly, it's a remarkable success story. Of eighty inmates who have completed the program, only three are back in custody, a recidivism rate under five percent, compared to a national average of sixty percent. Eighty percent of all those who have been released from InnerChange have jobs and Christian mentors, and they're welcomed in churches. This shows how strong a deterrent to crime Christian conversion is. This was exactly the plan Wesley Mission presented some years ago to work in Junee Prison which was opposed by Rev Harry Herbert and other short-sighted people in the UCA Synod. What we proposed then, is now USA Government policy! I am sure we will now see our Governments open to faith-based programs in prisons like the USA. Only now it will be the church bureaucracies who have to remove the blinkers. We praise God for all our staff who work on the cutting edge of society seeking better outcomes for the most disadvantaged. We commit ourselves afresh to this task and to changing the mind set within bureaucracies in both government and church!