The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued their Pastoral Letter to the Parishes and Chaplaincies of the Church of England for the 2017 General Election, and it’s actually rather good. It’s certainly an infinite improvement on the absurd tome produced by a committee of bishops for the 2015 General Election. This one is not only succinct (thank God), it’s also a bit bold in some of its exhortations, and that is a cause for rejoicing. For those who have ears and eyes, it walks the political via media between the two Archbishops – Sentamu’s statist socialism and Welby’s nuanced conservatism – and is all the better for that.
Yes, it calls for some motherhood and apple pie stuff – love, trust, hope – but just look at the red meat: a focus on the importance of our Christian heritage and Christian British values; new post-EU trading agreements which mitigate the need for mass migrations; the need to be an outward looking, global nation; the importance of an economy which is not over-reliant on debt; a radical approach to education; the primacy of marriage and the family; the importance of religious belief, religious freedom and religious literacy (with a swipe at ‘unreliable’ secularism), all underpinned by the roots of our Christian history.
That’s not to say all the motherhood stuff is irrelevant (mothers are lovely), or that the apple pie is in any sense unimportant (apple pie is yummy), but in the present political climate (and the state of the party leaderships) the Archbishops’ exhortation of “cohesion, courage and stability” sings much more from Theresa May’s hymn sheet of “strong and stable leadership” than Jeremy Corbyn’s call for.. um.. what exactly?
All parties can and will take some delight in this Pastoral Letter: the Church of England is a national church, and no political party is in possession of all truth and wisdom. But for the more conservative-minded and Conservative-inclined, there are nuggets and carrots and one or two gems, so “set aside apathy and cynicism” and cry, ‘God for Welby, Sentamu, and strong and stable leadership!’
Here’s the letter: