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. Watch this pace to hear about what we get up to. In this blog Paul Morrison tells us about the LibDem party conference.
A church leaders’ delegation attended the LibDem Conference on Monday. As we approached the Bournemouth International Centre at 7.30am to go to the LibDem Christian Fellowship prayer breakfast three people, were packing up their belongings having spent a night homeless on the benches in front of the Centre. They may have been happy or unhappy to know that they were to be a theme running through our conversations for that day.
The prayer breakfast was led Tim Farron followed by Lt Col Marion Drew of the Salvation Army leading prayers. Marion, who serves local a congregation and knew the rough sleepers personally, asked us to reflect on how the issues discussed at the Conference would affect their lives and the lives of other people who are finding it hard to make their way in our society.
The reason why the churches go to Party Conferences is not to lobby on particular issues and definitely not to ask for policy changes that favour the church. We go to further relationships, to affirm those who are called to work in politics and we asked each person the situations that they wished to be held in prayer.
While good politics will rightly bring debate and disagreement it was genuinely uplifting to meet gifted people who have a passion to improve the lot of others.
Each conversation covered a wide range of issues. Baroness Sal Brinton and Baroness Yanke talked about the huge amount of detailed work that the House of Lords needs to look at to facilitate Brexit, and about how Churches could make a positive influence to public life. Stephen Lloyd who is now a front bench spokesman on benefits issues, talked about this but also his belief that good quality Religious Education was needed to ensure that children were prepared for today’s world. Baron Stunell – “a Baptist on loan to a Methodist Church” – was able to discuss the detail of housing policy as well helping us understand how his politics and faith mix. While good politics will rightly bring debate and disagreement it was genuinely uplifting to meet gifted people who have a passion to improve the lot of others.
As we left the Conference Centre, Marion told us the rough sleepers would be getting a hot meal and maybe a shower at a nearby church. I hope they remain in the forefront of people’s mind throughout the Conference and beyond.
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‘: