Archbishops stand ready to advise electorate

05 May 2017

PA

Crunch time: Summer Donohue, aged three, eats a snack, during a home visit by the Prime Minister in Plymouth, on Tuesday

Crunch time: Summer Donohue, aged three, eats a snack, during a home visit by the Prime Minister in Plymouth, on Tuesday

THE Archbishops are planning to issue guidance to voters in the run-up to the General Election.

In 2015, the House published a long pastoral letter to the people and parishes of England, giving advice on how to decide whom to vote for, with reflections on particular issues in politics (News, 20 February, 2015).

The 126-paragraph letter did not endorse any party, but instead sketched out what values politicians should aspire to, and offered a lens through which Anglican voters could view each party’s policies.

It is understood that discussions in Church House on releasing another letter before next month’s snap General Election are well advanced, although it is not yet clear when the document might be published.

A potential topic is the place of faith in society. It is not known whether the guidance would tackle contentious issues such as immigration, Brexit, or inequality.

The 2015 letter went into considerable detail on policy. For example, it warned against excessive debt, criticised the impact of austerity on the poor, condemned the “ugly undercurrent of racism” present in the immigration debate, and cautioned against a welfare system that did not also support voluntary action.

Despite its careful wording, the pastoral letter was criticised by a number of Conservative figures, including Nadine Dorries MP, who accused the bishops of speaking up to criticise Conservative governments and not Labour ones.

In Wales, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, has urged the Church and politicians to work harder to tackle homelessness and poor housing. Speaking last week at a conference organised by the charity Housing Justice Cymru, in Wrexham, Bishop Cameron said that about 300 people were currently sleeping rough in Wales.

“We are often at a loss about what to do when confronted with individual situations, but we need to respond to this situation of growing urgency,” he said. “Housing Justice Cymru deserves our support precisely because it allows Christians to take positive action together to change the situation, and to reflect that practical love commended to us by the Lord.”

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The Church must play its part in providing land to build more homes, he went on, noting how the charity had helped churches to use surplus land they owned to deliver 30 new houses in the past three years. As many as 200 faith buildings close annually, the charity said, which could be used for affordable housing developments.

The Welsh government was doing “good work” on homelessness, but needed to do more for the 80,000 people on social housing waiting lists, the charity’s director, Sharon Lee, said. A Welsh government spokesman said that its 2014 Housing Act was helping to prevent homelessness for almost 9000 at-risk households, and pointed to a January announcement of £8 million for homelessness prevention projects.

The main election campaign this week was dominated by discussion of Brexit negotiations, after EU sources leaked to a German newspaper a damning account of a dinner at Downing Street, hosted by Theresa May for top Brussels officials.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, reportedly said that he left the meeting “ten times more sceptical” about the chances of concluding a deal with the UK in the two-year time-frame.

Mrs May later told the BBC that she was determined to stand up to the EU during negotiations. “During the Conservative Party leadership campaign, I was described by one of my colleagues as ‘a bloody difficult woman’,” she said. “And I said at the time, the next person to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker.”

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