Thinking Anglicans

General Election 2017: "Archbishops highlight the place of faith in British life"

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a pastoral letter to the parishes and chaplaincies of the Church of England as a contribution to next month’s general election in the UK. The full pastoral letter can be read here (pdf) and here (webpage), and there is a press release (copied below the fold).

Press reports

BBC News Archbishops of Canterbury and York voice election concerns
ITV News Archbishops of Canterbury and York raise election concerns in letter
Harry Farley Christian Today Archbishops: Religion must be central in general election to avoid extremism
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church of England urges voters to ‘set aside apathy’ in general election
Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Don’t ‘exploit’ the faith of political opponents, say Archbishops

Press release

General Election 2017: Archbishops highlight the place of faith in British life
06 May 2017

Faith has a central role to play in politics and this general election, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York say today.

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.

Following divisions of recent years, it calls for reconciliation drawing on shared British values based on cohesion, courage and stability.

It upholds marriage, family and households as the building blocks of society which should be “nurtured and supported” as a “blessing”.

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.

But Christians also have a duty to play an active part in the process, they add.

The letter also calls for space for faith in political debate and says politicians must be free to speak openly about their own beliefs and convictions and treated fairly for doing so.

“This election is being contested against the backdrop of deep and profound questions of identity,” they say.

“Opportunities to renew and reimagine our shared values as a country and a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland only come around every few generations.
“We are in such a time.

“Our Christian heritage, our current choices and our obligations to future generations and to God’s world will all play a shaping role.

“If our shared British values are to carry the weight of where we now stand and the challenges ahead of us, they must have at their core cohesion, courage and stability.”

The Archbishops highlight major concerns over poverty, housing and the dangers of “crushing” debt among other issues.

They call for a generous and hospitable welcome to refugees and migrants but also warn against being “deaf to the legitimate concerns” about the scale of migration into some communities.

They also single out the importance of standing up for those suffering persecution on grounds of faith around the world.

Faith, they argue, has a unique role to play in preventing extremism and religiously motivated violence.
“Contemporary politics needs to re-evaluate the importance of religious belief,” they insist.

“The assumptions of secularism are not a reliable guide to the way the world works, nor will they enable us to understand the place of faith in other people’s lives.

“Parishes and Chaplaincies of the Church of England serve people of all faiths and none.

“Their contribution and that of other denominations and faiths to the well-being of the nation is immense – schools, food banks, social support, childcare among many others – and is freely offered. But the role of faith in society is not just measured in terms of service delivery.

“The new Parliament, if it is to take religious freedom seriously, must treat as an essential task the improvement of religious literacy.”

They add: “Political responses to the problems of religiously-motivated violence and extremism, at home and overseas, must also recognise that solutions will not be found simply in further secularisation of the public realm.”

The full pastoral letter can be read here.

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Father DavidT PottStanley Monkhouse, aka Fr WilliamJeremyJames Byron Recent comment authors
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Froghole
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Froghole

It is hard to say whether the primates are wanting us to vote Tory, because that is the vehicle that is most likely to neutralise extremism, or whether they are wanting us to vote against the Tories, because that party is the vehicle that has been most effective at neutralising extremism, albeit by appropriating it. What is clear to me is that the experiences of the last year have deranged many established political predicates. With every passing day the expressions ‘left’ and ‘right’ (always more appropriate to the French experience) have ever less meaning. When someone as sane as Giles… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

If this was meant to a non-partisan intervention then it has failed. Social Media has conservative commentators latching on to the stability word as an endorsement of the Prime Minister’s robotic offer of strength and stability. Did no one at Lambeth spot that this word was now a party rallying cry? The only consolation is that the advice in their letter, some of which I think is excellent, has been issued early on in the campaign. Not many people take any notice of Archbishops anyway, these days, so I think whatever they say is likely to have a negligible impact… Read more »

JeremyB
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JeremyB

Well, in at least one respect, the Archbishops are clearly wrong.

The best antidote to religiously based discrimination–especially by the established church–is absolutely “further secularisation of the public realm.”

Including–if the CofE continues to discriminate in the cause of faith–disestablishment.

The Archbishops are pleading to continue to have it both ways. This will not wash.

Paul Richardson
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Paul Richardson

Well worth checking out “this estate. Blog spot. Com” for a very reasoned and critical response to the pastoral letter from our Archbishops.
http://thisestate.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/dear-archbishops-response-ge2017.html

Will Richards
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Will Richards

This is, I suppose an improvement on the Lambeth Palace press office’s assurance that ‘the Archbishop will not be commenting on the election’ soon after it was called. Nonetheless it is a pretty paltry contribution to the debate and highlights the vacuum in Anglican social teaching (where has Radical Orthodoxy gone when we most need them?). It would be a wonderful tribute to the late Dean of Jesus College, Cambridge, Dr John Hughes, and all his pioneering work in this area, if Graham Ward, John Milbank and Simon Oliver were to produce a ‘counter’ statement that is not fettered by… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

In referring to “shared British values,” it’s clearly escaped their graces’ notice that one half of the union between England and Scotland emphatically rejected isolationism and xenophobia, and is on the verge of seceding. They’re also ignorant of what secularism means: the legal separation of church and state, not a rejection of faith. Devout believers can be, and are, secularists. Secularism began not with atheists, but with Christians sick of being persecuted by their alleged brethren. If the CoE wasn’t a state church, perhaps their graces could condemn a government that knowingly drives disabled people to suicide, and excommunicate a… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse, aka Fr William
Guest

I try to see this through the eyes of most of the white people in my parish who don’t come to church (the non-whites are nearly all Muslim and I don’t know how they are being advised, if at all). If it impinges on their consciousness, they might be inclined to ask “what’s an Archbishop?” Do we church people realize just how peripheral and irrelevant we and our little club are? Of the approximately 200 people who live on our street, only one (other than us) attends any sort of church. The rest, all friendly, lovely and perfectly affable people,… Read more »

John Roch
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John Roch

Can I second that?

When I saw the length of the letter I decided not to bother reading it, and clicked on something else.

Had it been a sensible length, I would (possibly? probably?) have copied it into our service paper.

I’m afraid they’ve wasted their time and effort.

Froghole
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Froghole

@Dr Monkhouse: yours is one of the very best comments I have seen on TA for a while. Yes, I think that we grossly overplay the impact that the Church has upon society: for the overwhelming majority church buildings are mere dead space and they (alas!) find the message of the Gospels completely tedious and unconvincing, even (or perhaps especially) on the very rare occasions when it is inflicted upon them by sincere believers. I would estimate that the number of people who read these archiepiscopal pronouncements or, indeed, any missive/charge emanating from any bishop, seldom exceeds more than one… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

In the immortal words of Sir Humphrey Appleby, “Ah, a cynic, what an idealist calls a realist.”

The cannibalism crack’s old as the faith, but that vampirism quote’s great. Will now forever have images of church as a cross between a Hammer Horror and Buffy, with a dash of Anne Rice on the side. Which isn’t far from the truth.

Stanley Monkhouse, aka Fr William
Guest

Thank you Froghole. You write “they (alas!) find the message of the Gospels completely tedious and unconvincing”. Indeed. So do I, at least as it is often presented. What keeps me in this extraordinary job is the psychological authenticiy of the Gospel. And that is what I preach. I make no secret of the fact that I think much doctrine poetic and beautiful, but no more than that, and a great deal well past its sell-by date, and so should be ditched. Some is frankly abusive, and I say so. But still the people come to church for decent liturgy… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“[C]annibalism and vampirism as one provocatively said to me.”

This is not always mere provocation. Although not expressed in those words, this was very much the sincere reaction of a friend of mine, on attending communion for the first time.

Quite frankly, he seemed to find the words of institution repulsive.

Needless to say he hasn’t been back.

It is useful, sometimes, to understand how very strange the church can seem, to those who are not brought up within its cultural assumptions.

Stanley Monkhouse, aka Fr William
Guest

James Byron: and zombies in the pews?

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

In April 2015 I visited Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire. A tourist board told of the special privilege that people there had to elect their vicar over centuries, until this was handed to the PCC early in the last century. Wandering up to the church (St Thomas Becket) I saw on the door a notice signed by the Bishop of Derby forbidding anyone to exercise the right of appointment for 5 years. Despicable, I thought, but then on the way home read that this very same Bishop of Derby was urging everybody to register to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election. When… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

For those who find a three page letter too much to read and digest may I suggest a brief 10 word summary?

“Vote for the strong and stable vicar’s daughter – Brexitia’s Britannia!”

However, contrary to the Two Graces coded advice I shall be putting my cross next to the Labour candidates name.