Wednesday, November 06, 2019

A message from Bishops James and Simon on the General Election

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Wednesday 6 November, 2019

A message from Bishop James and Bishop Simon on the General Election

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As Advent and Christmas appear over the horizon, so now we face a General Election on December 12.

We are writing to encourage you and your church members to engage with all three in a way that bears witness to the coming Kingdom of God.
Around the Election, specifically, to pray for generosity in debate, wisdom in policy forming, and to show hospitality in offering our buildings as places for hustings so the democratic process can be enabled.
The way we discuss issues of local and national importance has become bitter and divisive.

It is tempting to think this is a function of the impasse over Brexit, but there are signs it goes deeper and wider than this.  Social media has opened up a vista of nastiness where public servants are being threatened in the ordinary course of their duties.

We are also slowly waking up to the way those who want to undermine our democracy are using social media to set people against one another and to confuse and demoralise all.

Both may be evident in this Election.  Meanwhile, trust in the institutions that glue us together and help build community is being eroded at just the moment we can ill afford this.
We are called to seek the common good in our witness, as the prophet Jeremiah eloquently expressed when he encouraged the Babylonian exiles to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you’ (Jer. 29:7).

For the exiles, this would have been a hard pill to swallow, and it sets us a goal of praying for the welfare of all people, including those we disagree with and may also dislike.
As time passes, it feels like there is less of a coherent set of ethics with which to shape our common life.  The language of community is routinely deployed, but it feels evanescent, like the echo of a voice in a cave, rather than the voice itself. 
Our prayer is for the development of a vision in the UK which is rooted in the character of God and will stand it in good heart for the changes that lie ahead.

The local church is well placed to help in the necessary process of healing and reconciliation that we face; to encourage true community where the voiceless and the most vulnerable have their role.

We have included some resources below that you might find useful as you explore your place in this process.
Shortly after the Election, the Church will be into the season when it celebrates the Word made flesh.

Words are sacred because they find their origin in Christ.

The best witness we can make to God’s salvation in Christ is to live in truth ourselves, to reflect openly, honestly and with integrity on our own lives, that they may shine more brightly with the light of Christ.
Later on in the letter that Jeremiah sends to the exiles in Babylon, the Lord says:

‘For surely I know the plans I have you…plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope’ (Jer. 29:11).

This is our prayer for the UK and we would ask you to join us in this.
Thank you so much for the generosity and faithfulness you offer, and the daily sacrifices you make for the sake of the Gospel.    

Yours in Christ

Bishop James, Bishop of Rochester

Bishop Simon, Bishop of Tonbridge
Useful links and resources

You may find it useful to explore some of these resources as you reflect how you and your church can engage with the electoral process and with others:
  • Digital Charter - The Church of England has created a digital charter and some social media guidelines to encourage individual Christians and churches to help make social media and the web more positive places for conversations to happen.
  • Prayer for the General Election - Share this prayer on your social media channels and with your church.
  • Christians in Politics - This organisation has produced various videos around the role people of faith can have in allowing good debate to happen and being involved in politics.
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