Welfare and Religion in a European Perspective: Introduction to a Europe-Wide Research Project
Grace DavieThe aim of the project Welfare and Religion in a European Perspective (WREP) has been to look at the role of majority churches as agents of social welfare across different European societies. Its essence can be found in the following questions:
MethodologyThe project focuses on the role of the church in eight European societies with different social welfare models and different church traditions: Sweden/Finland/Norway (social democratic/Lutheran), England (liberal/Anglican), Germany (corporate/mixed religiously), France/Italy (corporate/Catholic), and Greece (corporate/Orthodox).
Studies have been conducted in a medium-sized local authority or town in each country. The methodology combines quantitative and qualitative approaches with an emphasis on the latter. The data that are emerging from these investigations are exceptionally rich. Interestingly, with regard to welfare provision and the role of the churches within this, there is more commonality across Europe at the local level than between different nation states.
Sociology, theology and genderThe results will be analysed from three different perspectives - sociology, theology and gender - each of which has contributed to the shaping of theory and method used in the case studies. Taken together these perspectives enable a better understanding of the connections between churches, church organisations and other welfare agents, within the context of different welfare regimes, different theological traditions and different approaches to gender.
For example, in the Nordic countries, there has been a steady professionalisation of welfare, but it remains a sector in which women are disproportionately present (as paid professionals). Welfare is the concern of the state: the family and the churches fill the gaps left by the state. In much of Southern Europe these roles are reversed: the state fills the gaps left by the family and the churches. Women, however, are once more, disproportionately present, but in the family rather than as paid professionals. All of Europe is subject to increasing demands on welfare (formal and informal) as the dependent sectors of the population continue to grow, relatively speaking. The demands on women increase correspondingly.
For further details regarding personnel, publications and the case studies themselves, please see http://www.student.teol.uu.se/wrep/.
Grace Davie is Professor of Sociology at the University of Exeter