To the ministers and members of the Church of Scotland: Sisters and brothers, Grace and Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
We share in the unity and fellowship of our Church. Our belonging together and commitment to one another and to the service of society binds us in common witness to our faith. This is the joy of the Church, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to be mutually supportive and accountable to one another in the building of a world shaped by God’s grace and love.
As we approach the UK Parliament General Election on 7 May there is a real opportunity for the Church to share its vision for society and to raise with candidates and campaigners those issues which go to the heart of our work in searching for the common good.
There are Christians belonging to every political party, and every range of political opinion is represented in our congregations; what unites us through faith is our active desire to participate in conversations about what is the best direction for our common future. We saw this at work in the lead up to, and in the aftermath of, September’s Referendum.
As we approached the upcoming election I considered a possibility of inviting all of the parties to send representatives to a Church of Scotland national hustings to discuss policies and issues that are important to us. I decided against this out of the conviction that our voice is often strongest and most real where the Church is working at a local level, in communities and neighbourhoods. It is also in these communities and neighbourhoods where Members of Parliament are elected to represent a particular constituency. Instead I felt moved to write this letter to ask ministers and members of the Church to consider how they will constructively and positively engage during this election campaign.
And so I encourage you to:
- Attend a local hustings meeting, or if one has not been arranged, seek to arrange one, either as a congregation, Presbytery, Churches Together group or other local community organisations.
- At hustings, and with candidates and campaigners, ask them questions which reflect your values – the values of the Kingdom. Special resources have been prepared, which include suggested questions.
- Pray, for politicians to conduct a positive campaign which discusses substantive issues, for voters to have wisdom and insight, and for those elected to be worthy of the trust which has been placed in them.
- Vote (if you are eligible), no matter which party you support. It is important to play your part in the democratic process. A Government elected on a low turnout will have less moral authority than one where there has been strong participation.
There will be many issues important in this election, and you will be the judge of what is most important, and which party is best aligned with your view. I invite you to consider politics through the example and teaching of Jesus Christ; to love our neighbours as ourselves, to love our enemies, to forgive those who have wronged us, to recognise the special place of the poorest and most marginalised and to work for the healing of lives, human flourishing and to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.
May every blessing be with you,
John P Chalmers
Moderator of the General Assembly
Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office hustings guidance for local groups seeking to arrange an election meeting – http://www.actsparl.org/media/216667/2015%20hustings%20guidance%20-%20scotland.pdf / www.actsparl.org 0131 220 0246
Faith in Politics policy issues briefing paper, including questions for candidates produced by the Joint Public Issues Team (Church of Scotland, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, Baptists Together) www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/election2015 or from the Church and Society office email@example.com 0131 225 5722
Love Your Neighbour: Think Pray Vote study pack including DVD videos, bible studies, prayers and discussion postcards produced by the Joint Public Issues Team. Available for £7.50 from Methodist Publishing www.methodistpublishing.org.uk 0845 017 8220