Pas­toral Let­ter gets a study guide

The Church of England - - NEWS -

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

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