Thursday 19 April 2012

Carmarthenshire Council and the Towy Community Church on BBC Dragon's Eye

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have followed the relationship between Carmarthenshire Council and the small evangelical organisation, the Towy Community Church for the past couple of years. I do not want to repeat everything I have said and will provide some links at the end of this post. The main concern has been the readiness of the council to promise £1.4m of public money to fund a bowling alley, auditorium (a church), debt counselling etc to a group with links (now removed) to the discredited Mercy Ministries who advocated, amongst other dubious treatments, exorcism for anorexia. They had planned to establish a Mercy Ministry in Carmarthen. The council have cut funding to secular organisations including Citizen's Advice and yet have funded an organisation who use an evangelical umbrella debt service, Christians Against Poverty who themselves were recently dropped by Advice UK (again secular) who felt that proselytising through offering prayer as part of the service was not compatible with their constitution.

A public body such as the council has a duty to operate with a strong ethos of equality; their 'partners' the Towy Community Church, which comes under the umbrella of the Evangelical Alliance, have a rather different view of 'equality', with many similarities to the more extreme evangelical organisations one finds in the USA.

Much of the council decision making has been taken behind closed doors and tonight, Dragon's Eye attempted to get some answers. I have also tried to get some answers and await a reply from the Wales Audit Office who I contacted back in February.

Dragon's Eye asked to speak to the Leader of the Council Cllr Meryl Gravell, she would not return their calls (she publicly, and worryingly, stated that she hoped this organisation would ease the pressure on the social care budget), Plaid Cymru council leader, Peter Hughes Griffiths and Kevin Madge, Labour leader, also refused to be interviewed. The Chief Executive, Mark James, joined with the council leaders who approved the funding by stating 'it would not be appropriate to comment on this matter during the local elections', I am not sure why, I would have thought some clarity over questionable council spending decisions would be exactly what the electorate would want - but perhaps, rather like the Taro 9 programme concerning abuse in a council run care home, we would not like what they had to say, and no amount of spin would make it sound better.
The Pastor of the church, Mark Bennett also declined to comment.
Cllr Sian Caiach, who opposed the funding did express her concerns, as did Angela Burns AM who mentioned the recent AWEMA scandal and the necessity for open scrutiny.

(Paragraph removed)

BBC iPlayer;
BBC article; Towy Community Church; Unison and politicians funding concerns
(please use the searchbox on the right for further posts)


Pete Tully said...

Who are you "GOD".
Towy Church has done many good things for the community in Carmarthen. They Give away tons of food to the most needy in the county every year, also they help with the funding of many projects around Carmarthen. I see that your report on Dragons Eye did not mention this.

I do not attend Towy Church, I am just one of the many who have been helped by Towy.

Pete T.

caebrwyn said...

@Pete Tully
Thanks for your comment. Many organisations do good work in the community, that is not the issue here.

Anonymous said...

Surely the fact that the church already do good work is not in doubt. It seems to me though that they have built their case for public funds on the thesis that they want to do good work.

I understand that they already have a debt counselling service and also run a food bank for vulnerable people.

Is this not a case that the church simply want public funds to build a church ?

For goodness sake, anybody can see that during a time of austerity, when there is real pressure on local budgets the last thing that Carmarthen needs is a bowling alley !

its like something out of a comedy script - "Minister there is strong possibility that care homes wil be closed, respite care for disabled youngsters withdrawn and cut backs in other life affecting services.I know, lets sink a huge amount of tax payers money into a strange church sect to build a bowling alley. That will take their minds off things"

You couldnt make it up. At some point this wil be a huge scandal locally and those repsonsible must be a little wary of what is going to come out next !!

Cneifiwr said...

Anyone who has followed this saga closely will be confused to say the very least about the status of the food bank, furniture recycling and debt counselling services. When were they launched? Are they actually up and running? How many people have they actually helped? The church has made conflicting statements about them, so let's have some real transparency.

And if church members want to help, why don't they support Citizens Advice? What is wrong with CAB, Towy Community Church, that you feel it necessary to set up another organisation?

And for anyone who has been to Carmarthen over the last couple of years, why is there a red Towy Community Church van parked permanently in Priory Street? If it's part of the foodbank, it's not exactly mobile, is it?

Anonymous said...

"...why is there a red Towy Community Church van parked permanently in Priory Street? If it's part of the foodbank, it's not exactly mobile, is it? "

The clue's in the name - 'foodBANK' not 'meals on wheels'.
Or perhaps Barclays come round to your house when you need some cash?

Anonymous said...

You need to be very careful with the word sect.- out of order.

Anonymous said...

Can i suggest that we are very careful about the use of the words sect and making vague insinuations about similarities to top extreme evangelism in usa. There are many organisations out there that have caused enormous harm. Evangelical churches are commonplace across the country. Yes a small minority are abusive but the majority aren't. Many do excellent work in the community. In my experience abusive churches or sects don't want their members to have contact with the community. If you want to see what an abusive church looks like and the damage done i suggest you have a look at victims of trinity church blog.