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Christians should show their faith in public, Synod says

08 July 2012

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".

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