Welby defends church involvement in politics

24 February 2015

False distinction: The Archbishop spoke against  separating the Gospel from politics (CREDIT: JOINT PUBLIC ISSUES TEAM)

False distinction: The Archbishop spoke against  separating the Gospel from politics (CREDIT: JOINT PUBLIC ISSUES TEAM)

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has defended the House of Bishops' pastoral letter on the forthcoming General Election by saying that the Church has an obligation to get involved in politics.

Speaking at the conference "Love Your Neighbour: Think, pray, vote", organised by the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union, Methodist Conference, and United Reformed Church, in Coventry at the weekend, Archbishop Welby said that it was a "completely false distinction" to separate the gospel from politics.

Quoting a 19th-century slum priest in the East End of London, he said: "If you love Jesus Christ, you will care about drains."

He continued: "The business of proclaiming the Good News of the saving love of Jesus Christ . . . and the business of seeking to transform society go absolutely together. They are indistinguishable. They are literally the two sides of the same coin. You do one, you do the other."

But he warned Christians not to get drawn into what he called "miserablism", a sense that "we are only really happy as Christians when things are really bad."

He praised a number of government successes, including reducing unemployment. "If we believe that worklessness is corrosive to the human spirit, then we should be thankful that unemployment, over the last seven years since 2008, has been much lower than we expected", he said.

"There have been appalling social problems . . . but let us be thankful and rejoice that the forecast in 2008, that said we would have 3.5 or 4 million unemployed, never came about."

He also praised the Government's commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on international development aid; its Modern Slavery Bill, which is due to receive its Report-stage reading in the House of Lords tomorrow; and its work on ending sexual violence in conflict.

"I am not saying this to get myself out of trouble," he said, "but because I do believe in being fair. And that if we are going to talk about justice and involvement in politics, we can't go in saying simply because someone wears a certain badge on their lapel, that they are therefore bad. That is not what Jesus did. So let us celebrate what we should celebrate."

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