Joint Public Issues Team Blog

Joint Public Issues Team Blog

Conservative Party Conference: the pastoral and the political

Posted: 08 Oct 2018 08:53 AM PDT

Send your spirit upon them Lord,

strengthen them for the task to which

they are called.

But let us not forget, that though others

may do the task, we cannot abandon

it to them, that we must support them.


This is an extract of a prayer from our Faith in Foodbanks resource. We used it in our prayers at the Conservative Christian Fellowship’s prayer breakfast at Conservative Party Conference this year, an event attended by faith leaders, MPs, Councillors and party members.

Although the prayer was written about those who work and volunteer in foodbanks (the prayer breakfast was co-hosted by the Trussell Trust), the theme of supporting people in difficult roles seemed particularly relevant to the conversations our delegation had with MPs over the course of the day.

Our delegation was made up, as always, of faith leaders from the URC, Methodist, Baptist Churches along with the Quaker and the Salvation Army.

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Church leaders with Sir Desmond Swayne MP

Over the course of our time there, we met, engaged, and prayed with Christians who have been called to a political vocation. A theme that kept surfacing was how difficult a vocation this is, practically, emotionally and spiritually.

Revd Dave Gregory, President of the Baptist Union, reflected that “regardless of your political viewpoint, it was good to be able to meet with MPs who share our Christian faith and discover how that motivates them in what they feel is their vocation.  We need to be praying for them in the difficult, often grey as opposed to black and white, decisions they have to make.”

The opportunity, then, to offer to pray with MPs felt like an important one – and one which all of us can do in our personal and our corporate prayers. And it wasn’t just MPs who turned to the delegation of church leaders for pastoral support. Being a faith presence sparked unexpected and God-filled conversations. Dave Gregory told us that “It was a privilege too to talk about faith with a young man serving coffee to people at the conference.  And over coffee in Starbucks to talk with the leader of a county council and pray for him”.

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Church leaders with Dame Caroline Spelman MP and Martin Vickers MP

However, just because our delegation was offering pastoral support does not mean that we shied away from difficult policy areas which are of concern to all our churches. “It was especially significant to be part of bringing into creative dialogue our various perspectives on topics that too often can mar abundant life – not least migration, climate change and poverty” reflected Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church.

The dialogue was indeed creative and wide-ranging. While the topic of Brexit loomed large in most conversations, we also discussed social care, the international development budget and issues around migration and sanctuary.

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“All of the MPs we spoke to said it would be helpful if the local churches engaged with their MPs and invited the churches to do just that”

Bala Gnanapragasam, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference noted that there was an appetite for this dialogue to continue in local communities between MPs and the churches in their constituencies:

“I was encouraged by the willingness of the MPs to meet and passionately engage with the contemporary issues which are of concern to the Church leaders. All of the MPs we spoke to said it would be helpful if the local churches engaged with their MPs and invited the churches to do just that. I would encourage all churches to engage with their MP using JPIT’s Meet Your MP resources.”



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Introducing Beth

Posted: 08 Oct 2018 06:36 AM PDT

I am really excited to be joining the Joint Public Issues Team in my new role as the Public Issues Enabler for the Baptist Union of Great Britain.  I’ve moved into this job from pastoral ministry; previously I was the minister of John Bunyan Baptist Church, a multicultural church in east Oxford who housed a community arts centre in the building.

There I met many of the ‘public issues’ we deal with here as pastoral challenges. Child poverty, foodbank use, benefit sanctions, unaffordable housing, immigration and the Windrush scandal, amongst many others, were problems that impacted the day to day lives of my congregation and those in our community.

It is through pastoral care that I have discovered the practical injustices people face in society and that has fuelled the desire to do something about it. I know how useful the JPIT resources were to my local church as we navigated through the tricky social climate of austerity and sought to do what we could to work towards God’s coming kingdom, so I am looking forward to being someone who helps create those!

It’s a great privilege to have the opportunity to bring my theology to engage with the social justice challenges I have met in church life, as well as working ecumenically with the different denominations. My study of theology has shown me that God’s heart is always for those who find themselves on the margins of power and society. It has also taught me my own privilege as well: I have been the recipient of an amazing education and social background that has allowed me to get where I am and live the sort of life I live.

I believe that good theology – the study of God – is worship, and therefore enables the church to be faithful in mission in a quickly changing world. So, I am passionate that part of our mission as God’s people, here, in the 21st century, is that we need to be able to talk about and act upon public issues well.

Mission and evangelism can never be divorced from our engagement with our society and culture. The sociological studies of younger generation suggest they are passionate about issues like climate change and that also they are most likely to see the church as a negative force in society. If we want to be a missional church to under thirties, then our evangelism will need to be part of carefully considered engagement with our society.

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