THE Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Christians to become
politically active. Preaching the gospel and involvement in
politics were two sides of the same coin, he said.
In a speech to a meeting of about 400 Methodists, Baptists, and
URC members in Coventry last weekend, Archbishop Welby defended the
letter from the House of Bishops about the forthcoming General
Election (News, 20
And he warned Christians not to get drawn into "miserablism" -
the state of being happy only when things were really bad.
The Bishops' letter had been criticised by Conservatives, and
the Archbishop took care to praise several government initiatives -
such as the fall in unemployment, the economic recovery, the Modern
Slavery Bill, and work to end 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."
But, in his speech at the "Love Your Neighbour: Think, Pray,
Vote" conference, organised jointly by the three Churches, the
Archbishop acknowledged that "there have been appalling social
problems,"and said that involvement in politics was a way of
"loving your neighbour".
"If you love Jesus Christ, you will care about drains," he said,
making a broad allusion to a remark attributed to the 19th-century
Anglo-Catholic slum priest Robert Dolling about his motivation.
"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. . . two sides
of the same coin. You do one: you do the other."
Archbishop Welby encouraged Christians to use their vote, and
"more people to support our politicians".
"The more I meet politicians, the more I am impressed, and the
less cynical I become. I wouldn't have said that two or three years
ago, but in this job you meet a lot of politicians and, on the
whole, in one-to-one conversations, they are very straightforward
and honest. They are hugely impressive."
The speech was welcomed by the Conservative MP for South West
Devon, Gary Streeter, who chairs the cross-party Christians in
Politics group. "I agree that preaching the gospel and engagement
in the public square are two sides of the same coin," he said
"It is increasingly recognised by Christians that the best way
to change our society and make it better is not to bellyache from
the sidelines, but to get on the pitch and take part, even though
that is much trickier to do.
"I think the Archbishop phrased this well, and he has my full
support. He must not allow his fresh approach to be captured and
diluted by the men of lesser vision who doubtless populate the
higher echelons of the Anglican Church."
Rachel Lampard, who led the joint-public-issues team that
organised the conference, said: "To tell Christians that they
should not be involved in the political life of this nation is to
tell them to stop being followers of Jesus Christ, who has told us
to love God and to love our neighbours."
The Regional Minister of the North Western Baptist Association,
the Revd Phil Jump, said: "Our hope and vision is that every member
of our churches will enter the polling booth on Election Day,
conscious that, above everything else, they are called to be
followers of Jesus."
The joint-public-issues team has produced an election pack,
together with the Church of Scotland. It explores four themes of
truth, justice, peace, and well-being, through short films,
postcards, prayers, and Bible studies. It has been designed to be
used by churches and small groups in the four weeks before the
The election pack can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/lyntpv