Yesterday a dozen new church stream representatives joined us in Westminster for a day’s meetings and orientation around becoming parliamentary liaison officers. This would mean that government would receive contributions from a group of churches that are largely below the radar of those with responsibility for faith and communities. Believe it or not, ANY church stream that has come into being since 1903 would be considered new in this classification. When I called one of the groupings considering becoming involved they asked who else we’d approached ‘New Frontiers, Elim, Vineyard, AOG…’ ‘Oh- they’re not new!’ he replied. Which, I guess, makes the point that we are so used to defining ourselves in relation to one another that we have little awareness of the watching world.
The most encouraging aspect of the day was the common sense that the younger generation are more committed to campaigning and political involvement than their parents and grandparents. We heard from Christians in Parliament how they are finding their place in the public square. Having seen the limitations of pietistic spirituality, they are getting their sleeves rolled up forming campaign groups and standing for elected politics.
However, we all bear responsibility for their spiritual health as being engaged in the public square produces challenges of both pride and compromise. It was interesting listening to Caroline Spelman talk of these pressures and to hear of the support given through the G6 cross-party parliamentary group. They study the Bible, pray and discuss what is going on keeping their Christian foundations intact when they encounter choppy waters. There’s a role for us to play here, church. As David Alton reminded us ‘The devil comes in carpet slippers these days’. So let’s be the eyes and ears of our elected representatives: anticipating the issues, encouraging integrity and in all things communicating with grace.