Response to Pastoral Letter article in The Times
19 February 2015
This is a reproduction of a letter appearing in The Times on the 19th February 2015, concerning coverage of the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on the 2015 General Election.
The suggestion in your leader (“Bishops’ Blunder”, Feb 18) that the role of the church should be limited to “the soothing and saving of troubled souls” ignores the daily ministry of the Church of England across the country, often in partnership with local government, schools, universities, hospital trusts and other faiths. Research by the Church Urban Fund published last month found that 76 per cent of churches run activities in local schools, 66 per cent help to run food banks, 60 per cent offer parent and toddler groups and 53 per cent organise lunch clubs or drop-ins. A fifth of churches are also involved in helping credit unions in some way – a strong show of support for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s initiative.
Our letter highlighted a concern about the disengagement of the public with party politics and its tribalism. Your leader, and some of the intemperate criticism of the letter from other quarters, have readily illustrated the point.
The church has an obligation to engage with the political process, and Christians share responsibility with all citizens to participate in our nation’s democratic structures. Your leader suggests we were wrong to do so. We suspect it would have offered the same analysis of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Right Rev Graham James Bishop of Norwich
The Right Rev Tim Stevens Bishop of Leicester