It has come to be taken for granted that churches should issue reports and make statements on public affairs - anything from unemployment to prisons, urban deprivation to the Internet. In theory their conclusions are based on "theology"; in practice they rely more on simple appeals to justice, compassion and human rights. The author examines a number of such reports issued over the last 15 years and finds their "theology" to have made little contribution to their generally sensible, if not always exciting, recommendations. Instead, he argues that they should openly acknowledge thier debt to an ethical consensus which is still widely accepted, should be alerted to the insidious influence of fashionable dogmas, and should re-fashion their understanding of human beings so as to counter the pervasive individualism of recent centuries. In this way, the churches, along with other faith communities, can still make a valid contribution to "civil society" today.