A delegation of Church leaders and representatives from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers),The Salvation Army and the United Reformed Church will attend the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences in September and October.
Despite the Green Party gaining their first Westminster MP at the last election, they are not included on the Free Churches' list again.
The Free Church delegation is urging Christians to pray for all politicians during the party conference season as they debate the challenging financial and social problems being experienced both in the UK and abroad. The delegation will be hosting prayer breakfasts with other Christian groups at all three conferences, which local Christians in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester are encouraged to attend.
At the Conservative party conference, Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, will speak at a prayer breakfast entitled 'Prayers for Our Nation'. “There are endless illustrations of our own society’s deep need right now." he said. "As Christians, we should be praying for our country and world and supporting politicians of all parties as they seek to find solutions to these problems.”
Lieut-Colonel Marion Drew, The Salvation Army’s Secretary for Communications, said: “There is a real danger that the aftermath of this time of economic turmoil will accelerate the growing inequality between rich and poor. Pray for our politicians as they discuss current and future policies at their conferences, that they will have a full understanding of difficulties facing many people and that they will strive to create a fairer, more inclusive society for the good of everyone.”
During their visits to the party conferences, the delegation will have opportunities to meet with politicians and raise a variety of topics like poverty and inequality, the Big Society and wellbeing.
The Revd Leo Osborn, President of the Methodist Conference, said: “This is a tough time for many people. Our churches are part of communities where people are struggling to make ends meet and facing insecurity and poverty. We welcome these opportunities to discuss with politicians the challenges that face us as a nation, and to demonstrate that Christians believe that caring for our society is part of what it means to be an active disciple of Jesus.”
The delegation will also be raising issues that appear to have fallen off the news agenda, like the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system and climate change.
Frank Kantor, Secretary for Church and Society for the United Reformed Church says, “It is easy to think that climate change can be put to one side whilst we try to deal with the more immediate concerns of economic uncertainty and responding to the public disorder from last month’s riots. However, climate change continues to pose one of the biggest threats to humanity in general and to vulnerable communities in poor countries in particular. We therefore have a moral obligation as churches to ensure that climate justice remains a priority on the political agenda and we look forward to discussing with politicians their plans to ensure this important issue continues to be addressed.”
Michael Hutchinson, Assistant Recording Clerk for the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) said: “Our Parliamentary Liaison Secretary, Michael Bartlet, will be joining this ecumenical delegation because we want to encourage and challenge those who are seeking to improve our society through political life, and work together for the common good.”