This month we have a delegation of church leaders attending each of the four biggest party conferences, alongside The Salvation Army and Quakers in Britain. We have already been to the Labour and Lib Dem conferences. This week: the Conservative Party
Whilst the media coverage of party conferences seems to focus wholly on collapsing lettering, coughs, pranksters and intrigue, there is a lot more which goes on under the radar.
The delegation of Church Leaders from the Methodist, Baptist and URC Churches spoke with a range of politicians and political commentators over the course of their time at the conference. Together with colleagues from the Salvation Army and Quakers they met with MPs including Andrea Leadsom, Dominic Grieve and Stephen Crabb.
As Church leaders they offered a form of pastoral support to politicians who live out their vocation in an often vulnerable and exposed place, talking, listening and praying with them. And they also took the opportunity to raise important political concerns – such as the implementation of Universal Credit or the need to defend international aid – with representatives of the party of government.
Brexit was a theme of most of the conversations, with the politicians’ reflections being coloured largely by their feelings about leaving or remaining. Many of them made it clear that the congested parliamentary timetable and all-consuming nature of the Brexit task is going to make it harder for civil society, including churches, to engage with government over other issues that we believe to be important.
Loraine Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference, said “I was challenged by a number of the conversations we had, in part because I take a different political position but mainly challenged by the enormity of the task before us. This was articulated by many who we spoke with: to make sure that those among us who are poor, disadvantaged and marginalised live fruitful and productive lives.
“As disciples we need to build relationship and partnerships with those in our communities who may come from a different position and starting point, yet we can make a real difference by working together. I believe it’s imperative that we as faith groups, local and national politicians, local community groups, health workers, education and social services, all need to work together to see real change. As churches we need to ensure that we continue to make our voices heard about the issues that are important to us”.
If you’d like to explore the relationship between faith and politics further then download and use our six-week bible study, ‘The Art of the Possible‘: