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Ramsey’s advice on clergy politics is still relevant

03 July 2015


From the Revd James Crockford

Sir, - In response to the issues raised by a reader with regard to the attitudes among clergy to particular political parties (Letter, 26 June), I wonder whether Michael Ramsey's mixture of confidence and caution might be timely advice both to those clergy who wear their political-party allegiances on their sleeve, and those who feel the necessity to be timid.

Archbishop Ramsey's chapter on "The Priest and Politics" in his widely celebrated The Christian Priest Today includes an insistence that the priest speak in a political register, lest the full breadth of implications of the gospel be neglected, and yet a caution that the priest, as a public office-holder and pastor to the whole flock, ought not to imply that any particular party is ideally situated to bring the political ramifications of the gospel to fruition.

The allegiance, perceived or real, of church powers with any particular political body has a long and messy history, and should encourage those who speak to and for the Church to offer the broadest prophetic voice to all corners of political endeavour.

It is one thing to point out, as Ramsey commends, where the trajectories and ideologies that one might find embodied in particular parties go strongly against the grain of the gospel (for instance, the 2004 General Synod motion with regard to the BNP), but another to use one's public, pastoral office to rally support for any particular party - be it UKIP's rhetoric of "Christian" preservation, or your reader's experience of left-wing clerical gusto.


1a Iron Mill Place
Kent DA1 4RT

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