The Westminster Declaration, a statement signed by a number of socially conservative Christians in the run-up to the general election, has been criticised by the Christian Socialist Movement, the Conservative Christian Fellowship and the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum.
In a rare moment of agreement, the three groups accused the Declaration's promoters of implying that Christians were concerned with only a narrow range of issues. They said that it “marginalises, once again, Christian engagement in politics”.
The Westminster Declaration is described by its organisers as a “declaration of Christian conscience”, but others warn that it has more to do with voicing the fears of those who wish to retain Christian privileges in society.
In a joint statement given to the Baptist Times, the three groupings suggested that the Declaration risks “reducing the scope of salt and light to just a narrow range of issues”.
They added, “There's a danger that people will judge the faith of a Christian standing for election merely by whether or not they signed this pledge”.
A similar point was made this week by the former chair of Christians in Politics, Alistair Burt, an evangelical Anglican seeking re-election as a Tory MP. Burt said that the Westminster Declaration gave the impression of “some elements of the Christian Church more as a lobby group than as people of faith”.
A core focus of the Declaration is a particular interpretation of marriage. It addresses at some length the issues of abortion, euthanasia and the freedoms of Christians, while making passing references to poverty and the environment.
Rev Graham Sparkes, head of the Faith and Unity Department of the Baptist Union, said that it was right that Christians should be concerned with the sort of issues mentioned in the Westminster Declaration, but insisted that “in considering our voting intentions, we need to pay attention to a much wider range of justice concerns within our society”.