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Gearing up for the General Election: Christian interventions in politics

27 February 2015


From Mr Frank Field MP

Sir, - To set Feeding Britain alongside the great report of the Archbishops' commission of inquiry, as Dr Eliza Filby did (Comment, 20 February), is flattering. But Feeding Britain was the parliamentary report of a cross-party group of Peers and MPs. So, although it is interesting for Dr Filby to contrast the dogmatism of Faith in the City and the "moderation and pragmatism" of Feeding Britain, they were addressed to different audiences and had different political objectives.

While ours is exclusively a parliamentary report, we were immediately supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also generously financed us. Another political lesson? Archbishops' commissions can take years to report. Feeding Britain reported in months with its programme of action.

Feeding Britain was essentially about moving the debate beyond the two main political parties' blaming each other that a growing number of our fellow citizens were hungry. Likewise, while Faith in the City was dubbed - wrongly, in my view - pure Marxist theology, it is wrong for Dr Filby to report that Feeding Britain made "no reference to theology in the report at all".

Here, surely, Feeding Britain was reflecting the differences between addressing the electorate now and doing so 30 years ago. During these three decades, Christian language has increasingly become a barrier to, rather than a conveyer of, meaning. Feeding Britain, while not a church report, has its theology written implicitly throughout. It was implicit because we wished as wide an audience as possible to read it. A further interesting observation might have been that this parliamentary report came from a group of Peers and MPs of whom most were Christians.

What lesson does this hold for the Church, in seeking to prevent its disappearance from the scene over the next generation? William Temple observed that, when the Church does politics successfully, it is about not the bishops' saying something, but the laity's doing something. Feeding Britain has 77 recommendations. One third are already being put into action.

We, therefore, see our next task as getting all of those recommendations in place, besides building up, at a local level, the way the Church moves beyond simply providing emergency food parcels. The setting up of foodbanks has been the overwhelming and immediate response of church members acting as Good Samaritans. If we had waited for governments to act, we would have seen people starve in the streets - hence our advocacy of a mixed economy of welfare, embracing the Churches, who have been the prime movers here, other voluntary bodies, the private sector, and government.

House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA


From the Revd F. Gerald Downing

Sir, - Dr Eliza Filby's passing reference to "the loose-tongued Bishop Jenkins of Durham" is a gratuitous and quite baseless slur on a man who arranged complex sequences of words, chosen with theological reflection and precision, and articulated them in speech that was coherent and pellucid.

Such care and clarity seem absent from Dr Filby's own sweeping generalisations.

33 Westhoughton Road
Chorley PR7 4EU


From the Revd Peter R. Blackman

Sir, - Christians should be concerned about their country's well-being. We should consider issues raised at a parliamentary election.

I hope we shall find a candidate in our constituency who is the most likely to further Christian love. Sadly, with the impossible exception of green idealists, all political parties seek increased wealth for their supporters.

If, among the candidates in my constituency there was an intelligent, experienced, moderate, and independent candidate, I would vote for him or her. Since 1949, I have never had this opportunity. The same party has always held this "safe" seat, except for a brief period from 1923. There is no point in voting except, possibly, to save a lesser candidate from losing a deposit. Very few people can become MPs unless they belong to a political party.

I shall probably vote, but I object to the idea that, if I choose not to, I should be failing to do my Christian duty. To vote may be a greater sin than not to vote.

25 Turnbull Road, Chichester
West Sussex PO19 7LY


From Mr John Ewington

Sir, - The Church of England bishops are right to speak out in respect of the Church and politics.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that religion and politics were inextricably bound together through their concern for the homeless, the elderly, the hungry, the oppressed, health issues, education, and so on. All these matters are the concern of the Church and her members as well as that of the political parties.

He is also disparaging about those who do not use their vote. He had to wait until mid-life before being allowed to cast a vote, owing to the evil apartheid system. Perhaps we have had it too easy.

John Ewington
Hillbrow, Godstone Road
Blechingley, Surrey RH1 4PJ


From Mr Ron Jeffries

Sir, - The House of Bishops has published a letter to the people and parishes about the General Election. Non-political, but all good Christian values. Well done for speaking out!

I would like to share this with elderly friends who do not have access to the internet, where it is available for downloading; but it runs to 56 pages of A4 in huge type.

It is also available as a booklet - also in huge type - from Church House Bookshop at a cost of £3.99 plus postage. So I have either to buy the booklet or to print out 56 pages.

I am speechless with wonder at what makes the C of E tick.

Ron Jeffries
37 Spearpoint Gardens
Aldborough Hatch
Ilford, Essex IG2 7SX

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