“We want a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be.” So wrote the bishops of the Anglican Church in February in a strongly-worded attack on Britain’s political culture in the run-up to the general election. And they called on all Christians to use their vote “even though it may have to be a vote for something less than a vision that inspires us”.
The Saturday after the publication of this letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was the keynote speaker at a conference in Coventry organised by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) which campaigns on behalf of the Baptist, Methodist and URC churches, and which we (John and Elizabeth) were fortunate to attend. The conference was entitled ‘Love your Neighbour: Think, Pray, Vote’, and encouraged participants to bring their understanding of the gospel to bear on their voting intentions in May.
The Archbishop gave an inspiring address, skilfully weaving his way through the issues without taking any sort of party political line. He encouraged us to be hopeful about our society, to celebrate the good things that have been done by recent governments, and to rejoice in the freedom that we have to discuss these issues openly. At the same time we should not be complacent, but ask challenging questions about how inequality is to be lessened and about how we become a fairer society, taking better care of the poor and vulnerable. He said that as Christians, following a God of love and justice, “We speak out because loving our neighbour is in our DNA.” He urged us to challenge cynicism wherever we found it, (and was overtly critical of Russell Brand’s message of nihilism). He urged us not just to ‘think, pray and vote’ but also to ACT. By doing so we could ‘change the wind’ and help to bring about a fairer, more just and equitable society where all may flourish.
The conference then broke up into workshops – choosing which two to attend was really difficult, as they all looked inspiring! We finally chose to go together to one on climate change first. This was a little disappointing, as it rather dodged the big scientific issues and homed in on the need to live more simply and sustainably (though that in itself was challenging).
After lunch, John went to a workshop on poverty, and I did ‘Preaching and Praying Social Justice’. You may already have noticed that’s a bit of a hobby-horse of mine! Again, there was much to inspire and challenge.
The day ended with Rev Ruth Gee, former President of the Methodist Conference, preaching on words from Micah chapter 6, verse 8 – “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
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Written by the Minister & Members