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Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Bishop: Rebuilding trust in public institutions is a spiritual and moral issue

Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, has called for the value of seeking the common good, loving and valuing our neighbour as ourselves, to shape our national institutions.

“Rebuilding trust and changing perception is a spiritual and moral issue, and it begins in the heart,”

he said.

“Until we have decided to be one person rather than several, there will be no change at all.”

Speaking in the House of Lords, initially about SATs tests in schools, Bishop Stephen related a “parable for our time” about “the values of an overly competitive adult world, where you learn to be an individual but rarely a community” superseding the value of helping our neighbour.

“We stop seeing ourselves as a community and learn to see ourselves as individuals set against each other in a dog-eat-dog world.”

This

"also affects so much of our public discourse. Our ways of interacting with one another are often combative and adversarial."

The Bishop saw the influence of consumerism as having created “a nation of junkies, lusting for the wealth to deliver the goods that they think will buy them happiness and then realising that it does not really work.”

The increasing professionalisation of political life has added to “an inevitable disconnect between different groups of people in our country, and we are part of that.”

“This breeds cynicism and we should not therefore be surprised when the evidence shows us that the perception of the public, albeit an unfair one, is that we cannot be trusted.”

A further “disconnect between the public and the private” has grown up “where we have allowed a separation of who we are in one place from who we are in another, and where the values we espouse at home are not always the values we espouse at work.”

"The transparency of life" is “the elusive ethos that parents and politicians crave, but it is often lacking, or at least diminished, in public life.”

“It is where we know that we belong to each other and are accountable to each other and, I suppose most of all, accountable to ourselves, able to look ourselves in the eye over what we have said and done. This is, thank God, taught and valued in all our schools.”

The Bishop observed that: 

“Many of today’s most successful businesses, like our very best schools, prize collaboration as a way of encouraging enterprise, harnessing creativity and, in so doing, developing different and more collaborative models of leadership. We also see this in some of our best local authorities and councils.”

When individual “well-being and success" are "intrinsically bound up with the well-being and success of others and of the whole,” the individual is trusted and is “much more likely to trust others.”