Free Churches take community message to big political conferences

By staff writers
September 8, 2008

The President and Vice-President of the British Methodist Conference will join Free Church leaders attending the three main party political conferences this autumn and will be pushing a message of social justice in the UK and globally.

President the Rev Stephen Poxon and Vice President Mr David Walton will visit the conferences as part of a Free Church delegation made up of representatives from the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Salvation Army and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

The delegation will spend time with Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative politicians, learning more about their processes and decisions in order to better engage and debate with policy makers.

But they will not be attending the Green conference, which may lead to accusations that they are favouring corporate over grassroots politics.

Stephen Poxon declared: "This will be a valuable opportunity to engage with some of the key decision makers in British politics about issues that matter to the churches, to those in our congregations and to those living in the communities we serve. We will be talking with MPs and party spokespeople on subjects such as UK and worldwide poverty, and how churches work to support the disadvantaged in their communities."

Other issues the delegation hope to raise include business ethics, gun and knife crime, asylum and immigration, food and farming, and the role of churches in delivering public services.

"Politics is about so much more than Election Day or what goes on at Westminster," said Walton. "By having a presence at these conferences, offering support to our politicians but also challenging them on significant matters, we hope to understand the important and difficult choices they face, and the pressure under which they work. Only through real engagement can we work to make the changes that matter."

But Christians involved in the Green Party are likely to be disappointed by the Free Churches' concentration on 'the big three', at a time when top-down politics is being increasingly questioned and the environmental agenda is central.

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