After a the sermon this weekend and the advertising of a petition calling for less new housing to be built on the Island. There was the question raised about whether the church should mix Religion and politics. this was my response.
I understand that you were concerned about the petition in the church and the blatant mixing of church and politics that it seems to imply. I do of course understand the sensitivities around this area, and welcome your opinion on this. I would think that my sermon about the radical upheaval of the entirety of society and the inclusion of the Kairos document, which was a theological intervention by the church into the politics of South Africa, are points of debate also. As the Church of England is established, it has its roots in the political seat of power with Bishops in the house of Lords and many Christian MPs speaking about their faith along with other religions. The tension of being a state church while at the same time being a prophetic voice for change and reform is one that will forever cross lines and I welcome your thoughts.
With particular reference to the petition that was promoted this morning it is in response to many months of conversation within the church and community about the environmental sustainability of the Island and our work as a Benefice in an initiative called Eco church. The tide is turning and many people are calling out for systemic change that will ensure a future for the global ecosystem and the young people that I mentioned in my sermon are asking what the church is doing. Our response is that in the teachings of Jesus we have the example of radical sacrifice, simplicity and joyful community that has the power to give to this movement for change hope and direction. The petition in question is calling for a change in government policy on housing in relation to the Island, we also support petitions for the protection of trees and recently as a church we represented the Island at the ‘Time is Now’ protest in London along with many other organisations, churches and faith groups.
I don’t make apology for the stand that the church in this benefice makes with regards to social issues but we will of course avoid any form of party political activity. From Pope Francis on the environment and global poverty, to Justin Welby on debt and the economy and Rowan Williams on the climate crisis we promote to the community a church that is passionately working for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth
It is as I say hugely difficult and the greatest strain and strength of the church of England to stay radical and established and I hope that in this benefice we can walk that tight-rope with grace.
God bless Ali