Green Party and its Christians

17 April 2015

REUTERS

More involvement: the Green Party's leader, Natalie Bennett after the launch of the party's manifesto, in east London, on Tuesday

More involvement: the Green Party's leader, Natalie Bennett after the launch of the party's manifesto, in east London, on Tuesday

THE expulsion of a Christian councillor from the Green Party's ruling group in Brighton in 2012 should not dissuade people from voting for the party, Professor Tim Cooper, the founder of Green Christian (formerly the Christian Ecology Link), has said.

Rather, it should "prompt greater Christian involvement in the party".

Writing in a paper for the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (KLICE), with Colin Bell, a researcher, Professor Cooper concludes that "many Christians may be attracted to vote for the Green Party in the coming election," even though some would "feel uncomfortable with its position on key moral issues". Professor Cooper is former chairman of the Green Party, and a three-time parliamentary candidate.

The paper says: "The party has attracted Christians from across all denominations, and has particular support from Quakers, many drawn by its policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. None the less, some members regard traditional expressions of religion as outmoded and oppressive, and the Party has also attracted people involved in the New Age movement. . .

"A tendency towards liberalism and inclusivity in party thinking hints at syncretism or universalism, but it also implies tolerance. Significantly, the party has often described its political approach with reference to a phrase commonly used in Catholic social teaching, 'the common good'.

"Less positively, tensions with Christians emerged in 2012, when a councillor on Brighton and Hove city council, Christina Summers, was expelled from the ruling Green group in response to her vocal opposition to same-sex marriage. Freedom of religious belief was evidently judged secondary to gay rights, a questionable act given that the party claims not to favour a 'whip' system for voting. Hopefully, this will prompt greater Christian involvement in the party rather than withdrawal."

The paper says that "other Christians have had a more positive experience" in the party, and it points to the Green Party's first two members of the House of Lords, who were both committed Christians: the founder of the Iona Community, George MacLeod, and the Revd Tim Beaumont, an Anglican priest and former publisher.

The Vicar of St Cedd's, Becontree, in east London, and Chaplain to Goodmayes Hospital, the Revd Tony Ford Rablen, is standing for the Green Party in Barking, though he admits that he is "very unlikely to be elected". He said on Tuesday: "To be honest, if I did have a chance of being elected, I don't think I would be standing. . .

"If I did get elected, I would unseat Margaret Hodge, which would be a shame, because she is a great MP."

He was standing, he said, "to give people who live here a chance to vote for the Green Party, which is an opportunity that they wouldn't otherwise have."

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