Pastoral Letter gets a study guide
A STUDY GUIDE has been released to accompany the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter for the forthcoming General Election.
The guide put together by the Mission and Public Affairs Division, provides questions under each main section, for consideration during conversations.
The Church of England’s role in political discussion came under scrutiny after the publication of the Pastoral Letter, ‘Who is my Neighbour’ which was seen by some as being left-leaning.
A recent meeting of faith leaders, attended by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, who sought to defend the intended well meaning of the Pastoral Letter, heard claims that the Church of England was an institution entangled in Labour ‘entryism’, with a ‘highly politicised, sectional outlook’.
One panel representative told The Church of England Newspaper: “Nations devolve around a message, and the Church of England has lent themselves to a politically narrow discourse which lends itself to ends.”
This has since been dismissed by the Bishop as ‘full of paranoia’.
In order to demonstrate the Church of England’s considered approach to a Pastoral Letter roundtable, Bishop James has answered some of the questions, as written in
The Church of England Newspaper. Can faith help us work with disagreements? “I think one of the things the Christian faith helps me to do is to see other people as aiding God’s image. I don’t see opinions, I try to see people. The best churches handle disagreement well and graciously. One of the ways we are able to resolve the debate on women bishops was, as a result of finding good disagreement, we learnt how to live with fundamental disagreement.” If members of different political parties were to find common ground how do you think that might have a positive impact where you live? Jobs’ campaign led by the local Conservative representatives and people who were not natural Conservative supporters, participating in setting aside their political differences in pursuit of the common good. Some politicians might sneer at this, but actually, local employers got together attempting to create one or two extra jobs in firms, in order to benefit wider community.” Would you say you were on the ‘left’ or ‘right’ politically? “I wouldn’t use either term, I come from Cornwall, so from a non-conformist liberal tradition, and it’s this conscience that has informed my politics. On whether that’s left wing... it’s just left behind, Labour never penetrated the South West. I would say I’m left behind, not left-wing.” Do you think immigration is also a faith issue? “It can be turned into a divisive issue but all humans are in the likeness of God, it’s a faith issue in sense God has no favourites and in God, there are no distinctions of worth sometimes applied to immigration policy. How do you think different political parties can manage both to handle debt and take care of vulnerable people as well? “They’ve got to do both, they can do it in the sense that we are not a poor nation in terms of world terms. One of the things one has to recognise is that people need support and I think that it’s more important to support them, than to develop major projects in relation to infrastructure like the HS2, when we’re seeking to save £12m from the welfare budget.
“Meanwhile, mental health provisions have been reduced and churches are not always equipped to deal with (in terms of provisions) those affected by mental health, who don’t have many people speaking out for them. I’m not a politician, but I can ask the questions.
“You can balance things, which are being spoken about entirely differently. You don’t often see budgets for the HS2 and welfare reform mentioned in the same sentence.
the study guide, for Bishop Graham James