A constructive and courteous debate

Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu
Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu

Last week I was in London for a low-level meeting on Education and was invited to attend the ceremony in the House of Lords in which Parliament is prorogued, prior to the General Election.

It was a fascinating process, full of ceremony, dignity and purpose.

It indicated the seriousness of the business of Parliament at every level of our lives; international, local and personal, as the legislation to be dealt with was itemised in detail.

Finally, the word of the Queen, who had issued the authority for prorogation, was reported to us, commending to God the future undertaking of the governance of the nation.

Many people believe that the Church should stay out of politics.

But that fails to take into account the inter-connectedness of Christianity and authority in the fabric of our society.

The connections exist in many ways, but most obviously in the person of the Sovereign who is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

This is a relationship that places the Archbishop of Canterbury in a unique position and it accounts for our focus on Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral when we face moments of celebration or of mourning.

But even if these constitutional threads were unravelled (no easy matter), there would remain another powerful connection: the voice of Christian politicians, civil servants, lobbyists, commentators and journalists.

Their voice is not necessarily articulating a Christian viewpoint that is different from everyone else’s, nor are they seeking to be superior and critical of it.

But these are men and woman who express their faith in the context of their commitment to shaping the society of our nation.

They understand themselves to be accountable to God, our creator, our judge, and our hope for attaining the reality of life beyond the grave.

My hope for this election is that a Christian voice will be clearly evident.

I hope it will contribute significantly to a more constructive, courteous, and consensual debate, unlike the strident and damaging processes of the recent referendum.

I hope it will emerge from these potent and authoritative words at the centre of our Christian life and calling: “Thy kingdom come”.

Faith Matters

Archbishops’ Letter:

In a pastoral letter to the parishes and chaplaincies of the Church of England, Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu urge people to set aside "apathy and cynicism" and draw new inspiration from the ancient Christian virtues of "love, trust and hope". The three-page letter, intended to be shared in churches from this Sunday onward, encourages voters to remember Britain's Christian history and heritage as well as a concern for future generations and God's creation as they make their decisions. At a time when political differences may be felt more intensely than ever, the Archbishops insist that Christians' "first obligation" during the election and beyond is to pray for those standing for office and recognise the personal costs and burdens carried by those in political life and by their families. The full text of their letter can be found at www.churchofengland.org

‘Hope in a Changing World’

On Friday 17th May, Petworth Churches Together are hosting a talk by Dr Ruth Valerio on ‘Hope in a Changing World.’ This Spring Lecture will be held in St Mary’s Church, Petworth, at 7.30pm with the inspirational Dr Ruth Valerio who holds a PhD for research into simplicity and consumerism. Ruth has a very senior position with Tearfund as Global Advocacy and Influencing Director. Her Christian faith and spirituality are central to her life, and from this bedrock comes a deep desire to work for social justice, equality and ecological flourishing. Free entry with refreshments.