Church of England

#PastoralLetter (1): The patronising episcopal 'should'


There are only two possible outcomes at the next General Election: either David Cameron will be Prime Minister, or Ed Miliband. Nigel Farage will not be Prime Minister; nor will Nick Clegg. It is highly likely that one (or both) might form sort of coalition with either David Cameron or Ed Miliband. It is also possible that Alex Salmond might lead a sizeable rump of Scottish Nationalists into coalition with Labour. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the DUP or UUP might also collude with the Conservatives to form a government, perhaps with a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement. We might even see Sinn Féin take their seats in Parliament for the first time to form a grand Labour-SNP-Sinn Féin coalition to extirpate the United Kingdom for good. Whatever the permutations of alliance or amalgamation, either David Cameron will be Prime Minister, or Ed Miliband. Barring an act of God (such as, for example, the sudden ascent of Alan Johnson or another bout of Tory regicide), there can be no other outcome.

Speaking of acts of God, let us turn to the House of Bishops Pastoral Letter “to the people and parishes of the Church of England for the General Election 2015”. Having dealt with some of depthless reporting and disinformation (which is continuing), this episcopal thesis merits a considered response to each section, even to each paragraph, not least because we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This is, after all, the first Pastoral Letter issued by the House of Bishops of the Church of England, and it doesn’t say nothing. But nor does it say a very great deal at all about some of the seismic issues of the day, preferring instead to pussyfoot around a political moral minefield in the hope that the faithful might mistake professed neutrality for meh. There’s no point keeping gallons of lukewarm bathwater just because there happens to be a baby in it. That’s what plugholes are for, down which a baby will not fit.

Our first consideration must be the (brief) introduction. Its brevity is pleasing, though it belies the long-winded manifesto to come. Philippians 4:8 is a good start (even in the NRSV). As for the rest:

How should Christian men and women approach the General Election to be held on 7 May 2015? This letter from the Church of England’s House of Bishops is addressed to all members of the church. And, as the Church of England strives to be a church which seeks the good of all the people of the country, we hope that others, who may not profess church allegiance, will nevertheless join in the conversation and engage with the ideas we are sharing here.

This letter is not a shopping list of policies we would like to see. It is a call for the new direction that we believe our political life ought to take.

You might think that this hardly merits any discrete analysis at all, but since it prefaces the entire magnum opus there are observations to be made, and the hope is that throughout this series each comment thread might contain some nuggets of considered insight to contribute to the national debate which the Bishops invite. They want people to “join in the conversation” whether or not they are church-goers, which is consonant with the Church of England’s statutory pastoral duty to all people in every parish, irrespective of their religion or belief. The Church “seeks the good of all the people of the country”, and so this Letter must logically seek to nudge us toward considering the lesser evil in the looming General Election.

But there is a problem with the opening sentence. “How should Christian men and women approach the General Election..?” The Letter is addressed to the Church – that is, to all Christians – but dispatched to the church. How should Christians approach the Election? It is patronising and paternalistic from the outset, not least because Christian men and women aren’t easily bidden to approach anything political in a particular way – especially in the Protestant tradition – and who are these Anglican bishops anyway to tell Roman Catholics and Quakers how they should approach their politics when the House of Bishops can’t even agree about matters of religion? And what about those Christians who do not vote – either by denominational tenet or out of disillusioned dissent?

This episcopal ‘should’ is like the benign paternalistic Tory ‘ought’. Some might be appreciative of a bit of dogmatic direction, and yet a wiser exhortation might have been less magisterial. But having posed the question, it isn’t clear at all from the rest of the document that even Anglicans are told what how they should approach the Election – that is, beyond active participation. Still, we must be thankful that the the Letter is addressed to Christian men and women. In an age of androgyny and muddled assertions of sexual identity geared towards a spectrum of gender expression, at least the Bishops sustain the polarised orthodoxy of ‘male and female he created them‘ (though, having pointed this out, expect it to be modified for Pastoral Letter 2020).

It remains to be seen whether the invitation to “join in the conversation and engage with the ideas we are sharing here” is a genuine offer of dialogue. Do the Bishops intend to respond? Will they begin by acknowledging or answering why their Socialism is barefaced while their Conservatism, if it exists at all, is hidden and unspoken? Over the coming weeks we will see more than a few examples of apparently inviolable episcopal presumptions and premises, not to mention one or two (as yet unconceded) unforced errors.

The Bishops inform us that this Letter “is not a shopping list of policies (they) would like to see”, and yet it kind of is, not least in its conscious eschewing of left-right polaritisation and the inculcation of a ‘Red Tory’ or ‘Blue Labour’ approach to democratic politics. They prefer the consensual to the divisive: clear blue water brings disharmony and pain. “It is a call for a new direction that we believe our political life ought to take.” This is, with respect to the Bishops, a distinct policy; an overarching approach to the jungle of government and the art of statecraft. For if you control the direction of the media by which our political life is lived, you can discern utterances, dominate discourse, censor dissention, manage messages and manipulate outcomes. How should Christians view this?

  • Watchman

    The phrase in the letter that caught my eye is “who may not profess church allegiance”. This betrays where their hearts are: they have allegiance to the church. My allegiance is to Jesus Christ, as should theirs be. That would give them a completely different perception of their political allegiance.

    • The Explorer

      For most of them Jesus Christ died a long time ago. At best, there’s allegiance to his memory. But for those still committed to social evolutionism, Marx commands more loyalty than Christ because closer to them in time.

      • Watchman

        It’s such a pity that they could not take a lesson from Paul
        “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2)

  • Uncle Brian

    May 7 is still eleven weeks away, and a lot can happen in that time. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a Tory-Labour coalition, with Miliband as the new Clegg.

    • Watchman

      Brian, you must be very depressed even to entertain such thoughts. You have my sympathy.

    • CliveM

      Uncle Brian

      I would put my mortgage on that not happening!

      If it does, God will have truly abandoned this country and handed it over to the Devil.

      • Athanasius

        No reason it shouldn’t happen. Tory and Labour are distinguishable only by the magnitude of lies each is prepared to tell to achieve office (Labour landslide – that’s why they’re getting chased out of Scotland). In every other way, it’s Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Why not a grand coalition?

        • CliveM

          Even if I accept that they are now very similar (although with Milliband in charge I think that’s overplayed), there’s to much animosity between the parties.

          However if I am wrong, I will let you say you told me so!

    • Dominic Stockford

      If tories and labour do fall apart as the election nears that is not so far out of the question. Their overall policy differences are pretty minor, in truth.

  • len

    There is a new force to be reckoned with in the election the SNP who might have scuppered Labour hopes.
    Conservatives might just creep past the finishing line but the balance of power will probably be with the SNP.

    • Anton

      Not for long. They would use it to get Scottish independence and then Labour is truly scuppered.

      • Doctor Crackles

        Rather like finding yourself again above water on a sinking ship.

  • Dreadnaught

    What about the possibility of a tripartite coalition – Tory-Ulstermen-UKIP?

  • Dominic Stockford

    I have no problem with the ‘should’, it is the ‘what’ they they tell us we ‘should’ do, and ‘why’ they justify it that concerns me.

    Christians SHOULD use their Christian discernment in all matters.
    In regards to the election they SHOULD consider how the teaching of the Bible reflects in the various party policies.
    Then they SHOULD act in accordance with their discernment, following their conscience as it is educated by God’s Word, and vote accordingly, for the greater Glory of God.

    Lots of ‘shoulds’ there, but is there anything wrong with any of them? No, (he modestly says) because in following these shoulds we are then acting as far as we can discern, with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, for God, and not for ourselves.

  • DanJ0

    At least they’re not threatening people with excommunication if they vote in the wrong way.

    • sarky

      They can’t afford to lose anybody!

      • Martin


        Very observant of you.

    • No, they’re threatening us with excrement, i.e. verbal diarrhoea.

  • I read the full document and can’t wait for it to be parodied in the next Private Eye. But it may be beyond parody….Lucy Winket meets the Vicar of Dibley. Revered J C Flannel channelling Bishop Spaceley-Trellis. Never read such a load of soft focus ‘in a very real sense’ waffle’ and I’ve worked in the NHS since 1979.

    Talk about a suicide note….

    • Watchman

      Some 35 years ago I heard a theologian and bible teacher who had great respect as a man with a prophetic ministry prophecy the death of the Church of England. I think we were all a little sceptical but I don’t think that those who heard him then would now be in much doubt about the prophecy. He did not, however, mention suicide. I hope I’m still alive to hear the coroners verdict!

      • Anton

        It’s a grand phrase but what exactly does it actually mean? Was he talking about lingering death from falling attendances, or disestablishment, or what?

        • Watchman

          Sorry, Anton, it was 35 years ago. It was significant enough for me to remember the event but the details are somewhat hazy. He was, and still is, I think, an ordained Anglican minister and he was decrying the apostasy in the Anglican Church to the extent that God’s anger was aroused by the moving away from the truth of the Word. To go any further than this would be using my imagination. No timescale was given of that I am certain. I had the chance to ask him more details only a few weeks ago but missed the opportunity.

    • Uncle Brian

      Is it important enough for Private Eye to bother with? Probably not. And in any case, would it be worth their while to parody something that already reads as though it had been written by none other than J.C. Flannel?

      • Well Brian, we are all on a journey in a very real and holistic sense. We must lovingly work to remove tribal barriers to inter communal human flourishing and try to find common purpose in the stranger, the disadvantaged and the jihadist. Going forward with fresh new insights will enable us to evolve a theology for the planet which transcends outdated concepts of linguistic certitude.

        And tax the rich.

      • CliveM

        A parody of a parody?

  • Don’t quite agree no chance of Farage for PM. There are a lot of ‘sod the lot of them’ voters who might take DH Lawrence’s advice to ‘upset the apple cart, just to see which way the apples go a tumbling……..’

  • carl jacobs

    it doesn’t say nothing.

    Well, OK, the bishops do come out for a living wage. And they actually do make something of a case for their ability to participate in politics. But other than that…

    The bulk of the letter is a pollyanna-ish “vision” that consists of little more than vague platitudes. Any voter could make of this letter anything he wants. How for example does a man vote for the common good instead of self-interest? What is the common good? What is self-interest? To make the assertion comprehensible, the Bishops would have to define those terms. What they have done instead is say “Vote for the common good however you define it.” Well, thanks, Mr Bishop. That was useful. I thought I did that already.

    And I notice the bishops didn’t say anything about marriage, family, children, and sex. Ironic, since those are areas in which a bishop actually has competence to speak. Why is it that bishops refuse to speak about the things they are supposed to speak about, and yet insist on speaking on things about which they have no knowledge?.

    • DanJ0

      I’d say the common good includes clean readily available water, good sanitation, reliable sources of affordable power, the rule of law, an effective police force, access to justice for all, free education, a national health service free at the point of use, and at least enough social security to stop people starving on the streets.

      Arguably, it also includes a liberal democratic superstructure, a secular state, individual freedom, a set of human rights guaranteed by the democratic state, and a capitalist economic system limited in some way to mitigate abuse in a globalised market i.e. not completely laissez faire.

    • ” … the bishops do come out for a living wage.”

      A jolly good start, don’t you think, Carl?

      A “just wage” is defined by Catholic social doctrine as: ““sufficient to enable [a man] to support himself, his wife and his children.”

      We can overcome the problems of calculation and market forces. What is the amount that is sufficient to support a family – and can the business meet this? And what do we mean by “support”? Is this absolute – food and shelter – or relative – participation in the full wealth of a nation, material and social?

      “How … does a man vote for the common good instead if self-interest? What is the common good? What is self-interest?”

      By not just thinking of himself but thinking of others, of course.

      This is a different perspective to free market thinking that seeks the greatest good of the greatest possible number by each chasing self interest through the ‘market’ of universal suffrage and the economy of ideas and buying and selling goods. John XXIII described it as ‘the sum total of conditions of social living, whereby persons are enabled more fully and readily to achieve their own perfection.” It’s the greatest good of all persons, not just the greatest possible number. It is connected to ideas of human dignity, human development and solidarity, shifting away from individualism and focusing on the social aspects of the full human person.

      • Anton

        Do you think it is morally wrong for someone to start a business if it is only viable if some employees are, at least to start with, on less than “the living wage” (as decided by someone else)? The problem with the concept is that it involves a judgement on every aspect of a man’s lifestyle – his rent and therefore his standard of accommodation, his number of children, his frequency of holidays, how old a car he should expect to drive to work, what he eats etc. It is not up to social engineers whether secular or churchmen to pontificate about such things. The point is that nobody has to work for such a company and that remuneration is an issue for private agreement between worker and boss as Matthew 20 shows very clearly.

        • Anton, more than anything it’s a ‘mind-set’ – not “social engineering”. A moral predisposition towards society and towards the conduct of business and of political and economic behaviour.

          Mathew 20 is above all else a parable about entry to the Kingdom of God – not a moral message about industrial wages and collective bargaining. And, even it is, it’s about generosity. We have a right to do what we want with our own money. That however, is not a moral position. It’s neutral at best. How to exercise that right, informed by a Christian conscience, is the issue.

          • Anton

            If I had employees then I would regard it as my moral duty to treat them well. That would include health and safety, but why should I not be free to negotiate any wage I wish with them at the job interview? They can say no, after all. I don’t particularly want to go head-to-head on this but I do think that you are declining to engage with some difficult problems that arise in the real world – situations in which Christians are most sorely needed. If you won’t directly answer my question above, please at least ponder the issues it raises. That question is: Do you think it is morally wrong for someone to start a business if it is only viable if some employees are, at least to start with, on less than “the living wage” (as decided by someone else)?

          • Not morally wrong – no. However, there would need to be a state safety net.

            This raises a series of other question: ” … why should I not be free to negotiate any wage I wish with them at the job interview? They can say no, after all.”

          • DanJ0

            The supply of labour at the moment is EU-wide and some workers will be happy to work at below the current minimum wage, living in very crowded shared housing or even garages and garden sheds, to send money back to their home country if the cost of living is much lower there. Local workers wanting to raise families in the UK would be, and probably are now in some areas, priced out of the job market as a result of their aspirations. Companies that pay below minimum wage, or a nominal living wage, are exploiting the circumstances of their workers whilst reaping the legal and social benefits of setting up businesses in the UK. It’s that last bit that seems to me to be most pertinent, and also most difficult to value if one were to regulate.

          • Watchman

            Jack, Matthew 20 may, above all else, be a parable about entry into the Kingdom of God but cannot easily be dismissed as being inapplicable in the affairs of mankind. God’s grace extends to whom He wishes; that is within His gifting and the parable indicates His disgruntlement towards those envious of the way he treats others. Do you not think that he has given us the same authority within the area of our ability to control that which he has given us? He is generous with His Creation but that level of generousity is within His control as it is with us – He want us, like Him to have a “good eye”, and be intolerant with those who wish to interfere in our largesse, as He is.
            It is not simply a parable about entry in the Kingdom but an indication that, being made in His image, we have the authority to behave as He would: generously but arbitrarily.

          • “It is not simply a parable about entry in the Kingdom but an indication that, being made in His image, we have the authority to behave as He would: generously but arbitrarily.”

            Depending on how you’re using the word, Jack doubts Jesus was teaching its permissible to act “arbitrarily”. The actions were just for all; they were more generous for the ‘late’ arrivals.

            “He is generous with His Creation but that level of generousity is within His control as it is with us – He want us, like Him to have a “good eye”, and be intolerant with those who wish to interfere in our largesse, as He is.”

            Jack’s talking about justice in the affairs of man – the use of conscience and moral imperatives in public affairs and business. A focus on the common good and not individual good. There’s no problem with being generous. The issue is with being parsimonious and mean spirited.

            That business man. Switch it around. Would he be acting morally if he could afford to pay a just, living wage but decided not to? If there were plenty of people desperate for work, on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, and he could maximise his profit by giving as little as he could get away with? The market would say he was acting prudently within the rules of supply and demand.

          • Watchman

            Jack, you seem to be trying to somehow fit concepts belonging to philosophy, sociology, political theory and other disciplines into a theology. They do not fit. If we take the biblical approach to economics we have a simple model of the family being the basic economic unit and scripture which teaches that we reap what we sow; be generous with what you have and even give sacrificially; if a man shall not work he shall not eat etc. These concepts do not give a legal framework: there are no rules and ideas about minimum/living wage and community responsibility dont fit. We are each responsible for the way in which we run our lives and cannot make rules for other people. When the state involves itself in our affairs it is heavy handed and oppressive to the point of wickedness and injustice. It does not have a moral right to set any standards of pay or determine what I should do with my resources and neither should it. The market offers, or should offer, each of us the opportunity to make what we can of it and if we flourish to be generous with our success but to make rules on how others should regulate their behaviour makes you a tyrant.

          • That’s just undiluted individualism, Watchman. There is a biblical morality about responsibility to community. Man is a social creature and individual action has an impact on everyone else.

          • Watchman

            True, Jack but that is my choice, given to me at the point of creation. It is not to be imposed on me by human edict.

            I can understand where you are coming from. Your is a church which exploits mankind by inflicting upon you a guilt which God never gave you.

          • Umm …. to love one’s neighbour as oneself, you mean?

          • Watchman

            You means loving them by charging the poor for indulgences in order to build themselves imposing palaces. I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind.

          • No He didn’t and those men will have to give an account of their conduct when they meet.

      • carl jacobs


        A Living wage has economic effects just as a moving mass has momentum. You can’t simply decree these things out if existence. You can’t pay a man more value than he produces. A Living wage will by definition price certain people out of the labor market. It will also affect the ability of the business to prosper. You cannot force people to create jobs. You cannot force people to buy goods and services. You can dictate wages by law, but you cannot dictate the market response.

        If you really want to create a living wage, then focus on the word “support” in your definition. You would need to decrease the supply of labor by re-establishing the security of marriage, and convincing large numbers of women to return home to raise the children. That would force an increase in wages as employers compete for a smaller pool. But the pool of labor is now global. You might just force them off-shore.

        • Carl, these are the practicalities of achieving a just wage for politicians, economists, businesses and employee representatives to work out. Because it’s difficult – doesn’t mean it isn’t a moral course to pursue.

          As for re-establishing the security of marriage and persuading women to focus of childcare and not employment, that one will take some doing. Jack agrees too but the issue would be managing the transition, culturally and practically, over a generation or two and governments are elected very 5 years.

          • carl jacobs

            No, Jack. Its not difficult. It’s impossible. You are saying the equivalent to of “Let’s drill a hole in the hull of the boat, and still sail it” The market will react to counter your efforts.

            If you try to fix wages above market level, the market will respond to pull labor costs down to market level. How?

            1. Automation to remove the need for labor.
            2. Job cuts to improve the productivity of the remaining workforce.
            3. Moving production to lower cost regions.
            4. Bankruptcy and failure.

            The market will not allow the productivity decrease to be passed on to customers in the form of price. Customers don’t have to pay the premium. And they won’t. This is what I meant when I said you can’t dictate the market response.

          • Anton

            Absolutely, Carl. The sheer interconnectedness of economics is what makes it easy to abuse in argument, or get confused about.

          • Not impossible Carl, complex. You are assuming companies compete and act in isolation from one another and that nation states do too. Also, consider the role of an educated and more moral consumer.

            The assumption you’re making is that a just wage would be above the cost a consumers would be willing to pay for a product. True, consumption patterns may have to change. Just consider the premiums people pay now for vegetarian and organic products so that chickens are treated ‘humanely’. If fair trade actually caught on, companies wouldn’t be able to exploit workers in developing countries to satisfy Western consumerism. People are more important than chickens.

          • carl jacobs

            Complex is a word. We might even call it irreducibly complex. Or perhaps we should be honest and just call it NP-Complete. You haven’t the first clue how to solve it. That’s why socialism always fails, Jack. The mandarins who try to run the economy don’t know how to make good command decisions. The problem is too complex.

            You would establish a “living wage’ based upon a price structure that would become obsolete as soon as you started mucking with wage rates. And you would be doing this all across the economy. Prices on a broad range of products would have to rise to accommodate the new wages. Those price increases will significantly lower the purchasing power of the average consumer. So already you have lost the basis of your living wage. That decreased purchasing power means less money will be available for discretionary purchases. So while you are giving Bob more money, you are putting Bill out of a job. Oh, and John has already noticed the hit to his standard of living, so he is going to demand a wage increase to compensate. He is talented, so he will get it. And all of this assumes isolation from competitors who aren’t buying into the new wage scale -which is totally unrealistic.

            But not to worry. We will have a more “educated and moral” consumer. You are hanging this whole program on the ability to teach consumers to voluntarily lower their standard of living. It is to laugh. You know you have already failed when you need to depend upon people making economic decisions that go against their economic self-interest. Mary needs to buy two shirts – one for each child. Mary has $20. The Ruthlessly Exploitative Shirt Company provides shirts that cost $10. George’s Progressive Shirt Factory provides shirts that cost $20. You must teach Mary that she doesn’t want to purchase two shirts for $10 each. She must instead purchase one shirt for $20. Is there a quality difference that justifies the price difference? No. George the shirt maker will have a better standard of living because of her purchase. Mary could buy two shirts for a total of $20 so each child could have one, or she could give money to George, and let one child do without. Guess how that decision is going to play out, Jack.

            Water seeks its natural level, Jack. And so does price. You can’t stop this any more than you can hold back water without a dam.

          • Well if you’re going to throw up so many problems, Jack will revert to a form of Christian Marxist-Leninism and seize power.

          • carl jacobs

            Abject surrender.

          • Tactical retreat ……. for now.

            Your premise about markets seems to be that everyone will always act out of calculated self interest. That it has to be this way. This may well be so. Jack’s preoccupation is that in doing so the end result is injustice on a world wide scale. And injustice will have consequences – just as personal sin does.

            In buying the cheaper shirt for her child, that mother is directly supporting the exploitation of children and the poor in third world countries. How can that be moral? While we buy those products we are supporting this. We are complicit with what Jack sees as evil.

            And look at the mess global markets and debt fuelled consumer capitalism is creating. It has both direct and indirect impacts on family life and the relationships between men, women and their children – the basic unit of community and a nation. In the West, this is generating moral chaos and a declining population. We are consuming, contracepting and aborting ourselves out of existence.

        • One way to ensure living wage is to reduce the criminally unaffordable cost of housing. Trouble is, too many of us have profitted greatly from house price hyperinflation…..Now there is an issue the CofE might have sounded a trumpet over.

          • Anton

            Housing cost is a free market; no criminals involved. But there is certainly a problem. There is no single reason why house prices have rocketed; all of the following contribute.

            Low interest rates on mortgages drive prices to a larger multiple of income

            Uncontrolled immigration

            Family breakdown (two abodes needed where one had sufficed)

            Entry of women into the labour market meant that house prices geared themselves up to two incomes (with disastrous personal results when a couple wish to start a family)

            The solution is not building zillions of small brick boxes but dealing with immigration and enacting family-friendly tax and welfare policies.

          • Agree with 80%of that Anton, but if there is a free market in housing then I’m a teetotal Michael Jackson fan. The crooks who rule us created house price inflation for their own purposes

          • Anton

            I’m doubtful that the four factors I specified have been tweaked specifically so that MPs and city types could buy lots of cheap houses and watch them appreciate. I think that’s a side-effect.

          • DanJ0

            We’re chronically short of houses, that’s the reason why housing is so expensive. We either need to build more, or reduce the population.

          • Anton

            Or get more people per house like there used to be.

          • DanJ0

            Well, I guess. I’d rather hoped we’d moved on from Victorian over-crowding. I expect a policy like that would be more suited to the Conservatives, perhaps under a John major type extension to Thatcherism.

          • Anton

            I wasn’t talking Victorian. I was talking about the era before large-scale family breakdown.

          • Dreadnaught

            Make the sale of houses over £500k subject to CGT on profit over the original purchase price and stop the sale of Council houses.

          • Anton

            Why stop selling council houses? Council estates should never have been built in the first place as they produce an unfair 2-tier system. If there was money in building them then they would have been built. Also, although there will always be richer areas and poorer areas, they are well known to be harder for aspiring people to break out from. Getting rid of them by privatising them bit by bit was a superb piece of social engineering.

          • DanJ0

            Selling off council housing alongside introducing AST has made life quite difficult and uncertain for lots of people.

          • Anton

            Perhaps, but educate me – which people?

          • Guest

            People who cant afford to buy but still do very necessary but low paid work in every city and town.

          • Dreadnaught

            People who can’t afford to buya home but do very necessary, often dirty low-paid work in major cities in which the slum landlords are extorting to the max, their overcrowded hovels.
            You ever heard of the 19th Century Rowntree report? It was necessary then and they were Victorians!

        • Dreadnaught

          ‘Living wage’ is a soundbite conjoured up by the Left.
          What;s a living wage for a footballer millionaire? or for a dirt farmer in Namibia?
          Living with one’s means are dirty words apparently.

          • CliveM

            Well said.

    • Martin


      Indeed they all seem reluctant to preach the gospel. I wonder what they think of Paul in Athens.

  • Oliver Westall

    The apparently discrete choice asserted in the first paragraph does not bear careful reflection. Yes, one or other of Miliband or Cameron will be Prime Minister, except in highly unlikely circumstances. But the key question for many of us is on what basis will they be Prime Minister? Will it be based on a simple majority, on a more complicated coalition, or even on some more tenuous basis. The choice between these two is so unattractive that for many, their vote will be driven by trying to create a situation in which Miliband’s or Cameron’s authority will be constrained in particular ways. Of course, supporters of the Tory or Labour tribes resist this and find it very annoying. But it’s exactly because so many of us are deeply disillusioned with past tribal hegemonies that we will vote for one or other of the smaller parties. And every time we see the assertion made that it must be Miliband or Cameron, we are strengthened in this resolve, whether we want a Cameron government dependent on UKIP, UDP or Liberal members, or a Miliband government dependent on ScotNat, Liberal or Green members.

    • dannybhoy

      If the people want to abandon all the hurt and pain inflicted by IDS and the Conservatives, we will have a left leaning government dominated by Labour or even the SNP who will run rings around Labour..
      If we want to continue building on the good that has been achieved so far we will have a government led by the Conservatives, perhaps supported by UKIP.
      Although I doubt it.
      The worry is that the Cons will block any attempt for a free and fair referendum to leave the EU (although Greece might bring it crashing down) . I wouldn’t be surprised if Cameron has already tied us irrevocably to the EU. He’s just waiting for the right moment to cry, “Surprise!”

      Milepede won’t be leading Labour, but they’ll go ahead and wreck the economy anyway. (Why change the habits of a lifetime / Do what you know you’re best at / Play to your strengths etc…)

      UKIP wants a referendum. A free and fair one. I’m backing UKIP because I do want my country back, I do want out of the EUSSR, I do want control of our borders and controls on immigration with an Australian style points system etc etc.
      This is going to be a very interesting and pivotal election…

  • Doctor Crackles

    Your Grace regarding Farage, well you would say that wouldn’t you?

    Surely Anglican Bishops appealing to Christians is to use the language of the state church ‘reaching out to the other’?

  • len

    “How should Christian men and women approach the General Election?”

    Well I suppose to support a political party that upheld Christian values? , I don`t believe there is one?. Well failing that free speech?.Don`t believe there is one of those either|?.
    Choosing a political party today is a matter of damage limitation so it looks like another coalition so no party is given free rein to wreck the country…such is the nature of politics today.

    • James60498 .

      I would suggest that a coalition gives them more opportunities to ruin the country.

      Then they can do what they like and claim that they had to do it because they are in coalition.

      For example, neither party had “gay marriage” in their manifesto and in fact Camoron had ruled it out. Suddenly then it appeared in the coalition agreement.

      • len

        There are advantages and disadvantages with a single party Government the poll tax for one example….

    • Dominic Stockford

      support a political party that upheld Christian values

      Yes, there is one, the “Christian Party, proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”
      Don’t vote to ‘win’, vote to do the righteous thing.

  • Demon Teddy Bear

    It is rather curious that they talk about how Christians should vote, in view of the fact that they don’t speak for, represent or even, in some cases, tolerate Christian teaching.

    They’re all appointees of the secular establishment. They all owe their sees to their pliability rather than their principles.

    So, frankly, who wants to hear from them?

  • Inspector General

    This unprecedented pre-election meddling by church politico’s is nothing more than a concerted albeit veiled (…at the moment…) effort to dissuade the flock from voting UKIP. There can be no other possible reason for it.

    Such is the threat that Anglican soft Marxists see in UKIP.

    Well done Cranmer in all your good work, but most especially your coverage of this episcopal conspiracy. Worse than the blasted middle ages when the upper clergy were oft in the King’s pockets…

    The truth will out, you wicked priests. You won’t be able to conceal your dealings for ever, you know, and then you will face the pillory deservedly so…

    • Uncle Brian

      Inspector, you have a sharper eye than mine for episcopal subtleties. I read the Epistle to the Voters all the way through yesterday morning, almost as soon as it appeared here at Cranmer’s, and my immediate reaction was surprise that I hadn’t found so much as a trace of what I had been expecting to leap off the page at me, a big red No Ukip sign.

      • Andym

        Uncle Brian

        That is my reaction as well. I have just found the time to read throught it, and in places it almost gives grounds for considering UKIP. Given its length there is a lot to consider, a lot to debate, some of it seems (at first reading) to be contradictory (perhaps the result of a letter written by a committee) but where it argues against too much power being concentrated it could well be opening the door to support a party with “independence” in the title.

        • Uncle Brian

          “Ukip are performing particularly well among voters who identify as C of E,” according to one of the tweets on His Grace’s home page (lower right-hand corner). There’s a link but I couldn’t get it to work.

  • David Waters

    Unelected bishops lecture parishioners on what to consider when electing Members of Parliament. Some democratic legitimacy required first, I would say.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Although the ‘church of Christ’ should never fall into democracy, there is no reason that bishops cannot be called out from among the ranks of all the clergy by the people. Might get some decent ones then.

  • Apparently not all the Bishops are united concerning the wisdom of this lengthy epistle. According to Thursdays Times, “One chap in purple confided to a member of his flock, “I wouldn’t read a 52 page love letter from Kylie Minogue. What chance of granny in the pew reading one on politics from a bunch of bishops?”

    • Uncle Brian

      Sounds like a sensible chap. There don’t seem to be many like that in the House of Bishops,

      • From dear Kylie? Jack would read it !

  • dannybhoy

    “It is patronising and paternalistic from the outset, not least because
    Christian men and women aren’t easily bidden to approach anything
    political in a particular way – especially in the Protestant tradition –
    and who are these Anglican bishops anyway to tell Roman Catholics and
    Quakers how they should approach their politics when the House of
    Bishops can’t even agree about matters of religion?”

    Sorry, but isn’t that what highly structured churches are all about? There is a clearly defined hierarchy through which those with ecclesiastical ambitions may make their mark, and a vast bureaucracy for those who enjoy erm, .. bureaucracy.
    Of course it’s going to be paternalistic..

  • David

    The C of E episcopacy are behaving if they still had the influence of their predecessors a century ago. They are lecturing the nation, from an assumed height. If that was not their intention, then they are naive not to realise that their comments, issued so close to a GE, will certainly be regarded as such.

    With declining church attendance they are in a weak position, and are inevitably going to attract comments such as “attend to your core business first, preach the gospel”. Indeed I believe that they are neglecting their main concern, to preach the gospel. If they succeeded in raising attendance then, they would have a better platform from which to make suggestions. They have put social action before conversions, indeed they are putting their particular set of ideas regarding social actions, before achieving conversions.

    They have set themselves up for a fall here. Their actions are not wise. And I haven’t even started on the obvious leftward bias of their “ideas”. I believe that they live, work and breathe a culture that is so left-liberal that they are simply unaware of how narrow and biased their politico-religious world view truly is. But that lack of self-awareness does not justify issuing this irritant of a paper.

    As a traditional, protestant Anglican, whilst I believe that Churches can raise social concerns, as a result of their faith, I do believe that their priority is to gain conversions. Succeed in that and more people would listen. Where comments are made on society, bordering on the political, then they should not be so clearly biased, statist and left wing, or pro-EU. Perhaps their game plan is to anger everyone so much that they are disestablished ? Iit seems like that to me (tongue in cheek).

  • wilfthebison

    Lukewarm lefty politics from lukewarm lefty clerics, and the surprise is?