Churches form coalition to attend big party conferences

By staff writers
September 18, 2010

The 'big society', affordable housing and poverty will be on the agenda when leaders and representatives of five Church organisations meet with politicians and activists at the three largest party conferences this autumn.

The Green Party conference has not been included on their itinerary, despite the election of Britain's first Green MP, party leader Caroline Lucas, in Brighton Pavilion at the last election.

A delegation from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, Quakers, The Salvation Army and United Reformed Church have announced that they will attend the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences in September and October to discuss "shared concerns".

Members of the public are being encouraged to attend the free conference fringe events organised by the Free Churches and Christian groups within the political parties. These will include breakfast meetings on particular themes involving political party speakers and Churches.

The Rev Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Conference, commented: “Some people believe that politicians don’t 'do God' and that the Churches shouldn’t get involved in political life. Our delegation to the party conferences demonstrates that the Churches value the vocation of those who work to improve our society through political life. We won’t always agree with their policies, but we welcome the opportunity to engage with them over our shared concerns for the world.”

Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary for the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) added: “Our ecumenical presence at party conferences affirms the value of political participation and the continuing relevance of faith in public life.”

Frank Kantor, Secretary for Church and Society for the United Reformed Church, said: “The party conferences are taking place amidst a backdrop of the most stringent cuts in a generation and the church leaders are looking forward to engaging with MPs from all three political parties, looking at how we can mitigate the impact of these cuts on the poorest in our society.”

And the Rev Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, indicated that, "at a time when the role of faith in the public arena is high on the agenda, it is vital that churches contribute to creating a society that is fair and just for all."

The Church organisations came together several years ago to organise a delegation to the party conferences. The visits have now become a regular date in the Church leaders’ calendar.

As well as offering prayer support and a visible Christian witness at the party conferences, the group aims to ensure that shared Christian views are clearly heard by politicians of all parties.

Marion Drew, The Salvation Army’s Secretary for Communications, explained: “By being at the party conferences the Churches can develop and reinforce relationships, particularly with Christian politicians and party members, discuss important issues in an ecumenical forum and provide support and encouragement to people living in the public eye. Christian friends in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham are encouraged to attend and take part in these meetings wherever possible.”


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