whoismyneighbour-pages-1Less than two thirds of the population cast their vote in the last General Election in 2010.  Less than half of under 25’s turned out to vote.  People feel detached from politics.

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.

+Steven Sheffield

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Ruth Grayson
Ruth Grayson
8 years ago

We used ‘Who Is My Neighbour?’ as a basis for our home group discussion last night. We found it well researched and written, interesting and thought provoking. However, we also felt it was ‘preaching to the converted’, insofar as only those who are sufficiently engaged with politics are likely to make the effort to find and read it. Basically, it is far too long to be described as a letter; and it is not freely available in printed format to church members as a whole. We felt that a summary version, with a short covering letter, should be sent to… Read more »

Joan Stratford (member of St. Luke's Church Lodge Moor and Diocesan Synod)
Joan Stratford (member of St. Luke's Church Lodge Moor and Diocesan Synod)
8 years ago

We studied the Bishops’ letter at our Home Group last night. Everyone thought it is excellent and we had a very interesting discussion. However we all agreed that most Church members will not be inclined to read a 52 page long letter. We believe that it would be really useful if a shorter version covering the main points could be produced. There has been a summary in the Guardian newspaper but we considered that to be inadequate. Our group believe that the criticism in the press is most unfair. Congratulations to all involved and lets hope that many more people… Read more »

Steven Croft
Steven Croft
8 years ago

Thanks Joan and Ruth for these comments. I’m delighted to learn you’ve studied the letter in Home Groups already. The Bishops did intend to produce a short summary but in the end it was a hard document to summarise. We are trying to learn lessons about distribution for the future.