Throughout the whole month, church leaders have been very active in showing their standpoint for the coming elections in the UK and across Europe.
On June 10, 2004 there will be European elections, the London Mayoral and Assembly elections and local elections in many parts of the country. The British National Party (BNP) is planning to put forward as many candidates as possible.
At the end of April, the West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council (WYEC) initiated the heads of mainstream Christian Churches across West Yorkshire to issue an “historic” joint statement deploring the policies of the BNP and calling on Christians to use their vote against the party.
Recently, Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders in Birmingham said voting for the BNP would be like spitting in the face of God. Bishops in other parts of the country have been issuing what sound like instructions to voters, and they are making sure voters get the message. Such initiatives have even reached out to the rural areas.
Yesterday, in the center of Leeds, Christians carried a serious message in protesting against the BNP, and released 1,000 yellow and purple balloons marked with the word “hope”.
While churches believe that because of love, Christians should protect the society from being ruled by unjust leaders, they are also being criticized for their politicking church-style. To these actions taken by the church, the BNP commented that churches have misrepresented its policies and they should stay out of politics.
John Packer, the Anglican Bishop of Ripon and Leeds claimed that bishops had been encouraged to take an overt political line partly by the example shown by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Dr Williams has frequently criticized the Prime Minister‘s handling of the war in Iraq, and is weakening political trust through his sermons.
Anglican Bishop of Pontefract Tony Robinson also believes that Christians have a duty to speak out.
Actually, the church intervention in political life is not restricted to concern about the BNP. Their protest is not of no reason. The policies of the “racist” BNP are the things that upset the church, rather than the political effect that may be brought about if candidates from BNP dominate.
A group called CARE, which aims to promote Christian values in political life, criticizes MPs on a wide range of issues, including marriage and bioethics. Roger Smith, head of policy of CARE, says Christians are increasingly willing to use the political process to make their influence felt, and it seems that for Christians, as they are to take up their responsibility for the community; they will inevitably get increasingly involved in politics.
"Historically there's been a division between people who say the Church should only deal with things like the gospel, and proclaiming the good news about salvation," he says.
"But increasingly Christians are waking up to their responsibility for the community and that means getting involved in politics."
Even the Roman Catholic Church has started to join the voice of opposition to the policies of the BNP, as it issues a 100-page booklet entitled “Cherishing Life” this Wednesday. It says voters should challenge candidates in the local and European elections in June about their attitudes on a range of subjects of particular concern to the Church.
It points out that the "very ethos of the health-care professions has started to be corrupted" by the problem of abortion in Britain. It notes that about 180,000 abortions are carried out in Britain each year, describing it as a "sinister form of injustice".
"Governments have to realize that there's a spiritual side to everyone that impinges on political life, so they can expect the voice of the Church to be heard more strongly in the future," said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. He urged that people should create a culture that encourages life.
Compared to the clear viewpoint the Roman Catholic Church has expressed, the Church of England and Wales has broadened its appeal to voters to support pro-life elements of policy on education, marriage, and other social issues as well as medicine and science.
"Governments have to realize that there's a spiritual side to everyone that impinges on political life, so they can expect the voice of the Church to be heard more strongly in the future," said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Abortion has long been a defining issue for the Roman Catholic Church, but in England and Wales the Church has broadened its appeal to voters to support pro-life elements of policy on education, marriage, and other social issues as well as medicine and science.
Concerning the gay issue, it seems that a soft tone is detected. "This isn't a document saying you can't do this, you can't do that," says Cardinal Murphy O'Connor.
"Cherishing Life" says of gay sexual activity that it's "objectively disordered", but essentially because such relationships exclude the creation of new life. Though, it is not exactly the attitude towards homosexuality associated with the Vatican.