I'm an admirer of Tony Blair, but it is not only my secularism that makes me doubt the usefulness of his "faith foundation to tackle global poverty, challenge conflict and unite the world's religions". I can think of religious leaders and thinkers who have exercised wisdom (and some of them heroism) in public affairs: Archbishop William Temple, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Leo Baeck, Martin Luther King and Reinhold Niebuhr. But institutional religion is another matter - and I don't mean only in its more dogmatic variants.
One of the more thoughtful recent Christian thinkers on politics, the late Canon Ronald Preston, who was for many years Professor of Social and Pastoral Theology at Manchester University, noted in his Scott Holland lectures for 1983 (published as Church and Society in the Late Twentieth Century, 1983, p. 107): "The Old Testament prophets provide dangerous models of black and white denunciation which can hinder Christians from perceiving the ambiguities and ambivalences involved in moral discernment in relation to detailed situations and policies."
I fear Canon Preston's was a wasted effort even within his own Church, judging by this BBC report:
People who fail to tackle climate change are acting like an Austrian man who locked his daughter in a cellar for 24 years, an Anglican bishop has said.
The Bishop of Stafford, Gordon Mursell, wrote in a parish letter that not confronting global warming meant people were "as guilty as" Josef Fritzl. It meant future generations would be left in a futureless world, he said. Mr Mursell added he was not accusing people of being child abusers but shocking analogies were needed.
Lest I be misunderstood, I should add that I accept the scientific judgement that global warming is taking place and that a significant proportion of that change is due to human rather than solar activity. I do not agree that shocking analogies are of any use at all in resolving the policy issue of what benefits we trade off in order to mitigate future and uncertain costs to do with climate change.
Note also that the BBC's headline - "Climate deniers 'are like Fritzl'" - does not appear to be consistent with its report. As I read his comments, the Bishop is saying that those who merely fail to support his own policy preferences, and not only "climate change deniers", are like a man who kidnaps, imprisons and rapes his own daughter. I have never previously thought that the most obvious characteristic of the established Church is the quality of its social thought, but perhaps that's changing - and not to the public good.
UPDATE: The admirable Ruth Gledhill, religious affairs correspondent of The Times, says of Bishop Mursell's intervention: "It leaves me wondering just how much more absurd the Church of England can get."