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Archbishop of York joins register-to-vote campaign

12 June 2024

And Church House publishes 21 days of prayers and reflections in election build-up

Alamy

Nigel Farage announces Reform UK’s economic policies in Church House, Westminster, on Monday

Nigel Farage announces Reform UK’s economic policies in Church House, Westminster, on Monday

THE Archbishop of York has joined in a drive to remind people to register to vote, and to bring the correct identity documents with them on 4 July. “Don’t miss the chance to have your say,” he urged.

The deadline for voter registration is Tuesday (18 June). For the first time in a UK General Election, voters will need to show a form of photo ID at the polling station.

A full list of the permitted forms of ID, as well as details on how to register to vote, are available on the Electoral Commission’s website.

“The General Election offers an important opportunity for each of us to play our part in helping shape our nation. To have our say on the issues that matter to us. To speak up about the things that we and our neighbours are facing,” Archbishop Cottrell said.

He is supporting a campaign by the community alliance Citizens UK, urging organisations to become “voter registration champions”. The Archbishop said: “Every voice and vote matters in this election, and it is really important that we hear the voices of people who may not have any voter ID.”

Last year, the Electoral Commission published research that suggested that up to eight million eligible voters were not registered properly.

On Monday, in a webinar organised by the Church Times and Modern Church, the deputy director of Citizens UK, Jonathan Cox, urged churches to sign up to the campaign.

Churches could play a vital part in ensuring that people’s voices were heard, by encouraging them to register to vote and reminding them of the requirement for ID, he said.

Mr Cox emphasised the value of participation in elections and engagement with politicians: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

It was a phrase picked up by other speakers in the webinar, including the C of E’s National Ecumenical Officer, the Revd Tim Norwood, who encouraged churches to organise hustings. He said that working ecumenically was a good way to reach the widest pool of people, and that this applied at the local as well as the international level.

The Joint Public Issues Team — a partnership between the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church — has published information and advice for churches that wish to host a pre-election debate between their local candidates.

The General Secretary of Churches Together England, Bishop Mike Royal, said that churches were ideal hosts for hustings, as they were able to draw in a “very good cross-section of the community”.

For Mr Norwood, hustings were not an end in themselves, however, but a step towards building “relationships [with politicians] which will continue”, encouraging church communities to remain connected with local politicians to ensure that they were “getting a seat at the table, and keeping it”.

Bishop Royal agreed, although it was important, he said, that friendships did not develop between leaders which prevented the church’s being able to “call out” politicians.

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland have a tool on their website to locate church-organised hustings.

Among the events that have already been planned there are hustings in Southwell Minster on 20 June, and in Gloucester Cathedral on 24 June.

 

LAST week, Church House published a booklet containing 21 days of prayers and reflections, penned by a small group of bishops and designed for use in the build-up to the General Election.

The topics for daily reflections include social care, education, overseas aid, and the justice system.

In an introduction, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York refer to the Lord’s Prayer injunction “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”

“This simple and profound prayer is our starting point during the days leading up to the General Election — and all the days beyond,” they write.

A print copy of the booklet was distributed free with last week’s print edition of the Church Times.

The diocese of Salisbury has also produced a booklet, which, unlike the Church House publication, contains analysis of policy areas, including immigration and racial justice.

In an introduction, the Bishop of Sherborne, the Rt Revd Karen Gorham, explains that the briefings have been put together “by the sector chaplains and others in the diocese. As people on the ground it highlights their current concerns and the areas of our common life which need addressing by any incoming government.”

On Monday, the Daily Telegraph reported that the Conservative candidate in Stoke-on-Trent, Jonathan Gullis, described the contents of the booklet as “political electioneering”, and a “shameful indictment of the current state of the Church of England under the leadership of the woke Justin Welby”.

Mr Gullis, who, until the dissolution of Parliament, was MP for Stoke-on-Trent, has previously criticised Church of England bishops for “using the pulpit to preach from”.

In a post on social media, Archbishop Welby told Mr Gullis that he was “always grateful for feedback”, and that he looked “forward to advice on what we should be doing in the pulpit”.

 

QUESTIONS about safeguarding and social security were among the issues highlighted by bishops and Christian charities this week.

The independent safeguarding charity Thirtyone:eight has issued questions for voters to ask candidates, and called on the next government to introduce mandatory reporting laws.

Such laws were one of the key recommendations in Professor Alexis Jay’s final report in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) (News, 21 October 2022), but have not yet been put into place, as a public consultation continues.

The C of E’s safeguarding bodies have participated in the consultation, but have not been clear about whether they support religious exceptions to any new law (News, 22 September).

Mandatory reporting in the C of E was also a recommendation in Professor Jay’s report on the future of safeguarding in the C of E, and survey results obtained by the Church Times show that a strong majority of respondents supported the proposal (News, 31 May).

Thirtyone:eight’s public policy and research manager, Leigh McFarlane, said on Wednesday: “Parliamentarians, lawmakers, charities, and faith-based organisations must work together to strengthen and reform existing legislation, develop new laws, and maintain momentum in areas where there is still a lack of clear and effective policy and guidance.”

The charity has published a manifesto on its website which sets sets out the policies it recommends.

The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Jonathan Frost, also made a plea about a specific policy last week, asking “all parties” to “please end the two-child limit” for Universal Credit.

Bishop Frost was commenting on a post by the Children’s Society which called for the limit to be scrapped, referring to research that suggests that, in two-thirds of constituencies, at least one quarter of the children are living in poverty.

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