Our society needs fresh vision. We face different threats and problems at home and across the world. An election campaign is an opportunity for us to think hard, to debate and to have a conversation about what kind of world we want to build, about what kind of society we want to see.
On Shrove Tuesday, the House of Bishops issued a Letter to the People and Parishes of England for the General Election 2015. The full text is available online here: Who is my neighbour? Alternatively, click on the image to the right. I want to commend it for careful study and reflection in every parish.
The purpose of the letter is not to tell people how to vote. The purpose is to encourage all Christian people to engage with the election and to use our votes thoughtfully, prayerfully and with the good of others in mind.
The letter is also an appeal to politicians of all parties to raise the quality of the debate. We need our politicians to be people of integrity and to offer real leadership in uncertain times. Politics needs to rise above a series of promises to one or other part of the electorate to deliver a slightly better deal to some in terms of wealth creation, welfare or tax relief.
There are big issues at stake in this election: Britain’s role in Europe and in the rest of the world; the fairness of our society; the protection of the vulnerable; the size of the state, our care of the environment and the role of public services.
There are 16 Parliamentary constituencies within the Diocese of Sheffield including the seats of two of the current party leaders. The churches and other faith communities form a significant part of the electorate. We are present in every single community, we are engaged with urban and rural issues, with rich and poor, together we are making a vital contribution to the common good.
I will be writing to all the candidates in every constituency in the Diocese with a copy of the Bishop’s Letter and encouraging them to engage with the churches and faith communities and the issues they bring.
Please pray for the candidates and for the General Election. Please engage with the debate and conversation which the Bishop’s Letter has begun before and after 7th May. Please vote and encourage everyone you know to vote as well.
The Bishops’ Letter asks the question: “Who is my neighbour?” and holds out a vision that we will not build a society of strangers but a community of communities. That vision for our world is at the heart of the scriptures. Jesus himself teaches us to pray: “Your kingdom come”. Let us not neglect our responsibility as citizens and as Christians to engage with the debate around us.