THE General Synod carried a motion on Sunday night that called
on Christians to "manifest" their faith "in public life".
A private member's motion brought by the Revd Stephen Trott
(Peterborough) was clearly carried: 263 voted in favour, 25 voted
against, and there were 52 abstentions.
The motion stated: "That this Synod express its conviction that
it is the calling of Christians to order and govern our lives in
accordance with the teaching of Holy Scripture, and to manifest our
faith in public life as well as in private, giving expression to
our beliefs in the written and spoken word, and in practical acts
of service to the local community."
Proposing the motion, Mr Trott said that it would be "nonsense .
. . to describe the situation in the Church of England being one of
persecution". However, "profound changes" had taken place in the
governance of the country, which had resulted in "very determined
attempts" to "drive the Church out of the public square". This was
despite the "massive contributions" the Church made to public life.
Christian moral values "still underpin much of the constitution of
this country", he argued, and Christian faith was still shared by a
"very significant proportion of the population".
Mr Trott expressed concern about the potential formation of a
"monolithic state, which imposes a conformist ideology on all
aspects of public life". Although Article 9 of the European
Convention on Human Rights set out freedom of thought, conscience,
and religion, Christians were not, he suggested, permitted to
"manifest our faith" or "live and work according to our conscience"
for fear of being branded "discriminatory". He gave the example of
stripping Christian symbols from hospital chapels. Christians were,
"chillingly", being accused of "hate crimes" for speaking about
their beliefs publicly. He compared making people choose between
their jobs and abandoning their "conscientious objections" to the
position of Christian workers in the Soviet Union in the past.
It was the Synod, not the Government or the courts, that should
decide on whether wearing the cross was a requirement of the
Christian faith. "When we choose to wear the cross publicly, we
identify ourselves as citizens of the Kingdom of God, so that we
may be reminded constantly of the choice we have made to belong to
Jesus Christ and to bear faithful witness to him." By passing the
motion, the Synod would be "saying to Christians everywhere that
they should not be bullied into silence and anonymity".