Keith Underhill: May 2015
Support the vulnerable
Leaders from four major UK Churches (including the Methodist Church) have signed an open letter to the re-appointed Prime Minister, David Cameron, encouraging him to hold 'truth, justice, peace and wellbeing' at the heart of the government.
With a focus on 'loving our neighbour', the letter reminds the Prime Minister that a wholesome society should be concerned for the weakest and most vulnerable, both locally and globally.
The letter, signed by leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, highlights several of the key concerns that the Churches believe should be high on the agenda of the new government, calling for:
a full review of the impact of the benefits sanctions system
a postponement of further spending on Trident and a serious re-assessment of the need for nuclear weapons
assertive international action to uphold human rights and deliver humanitarian assistance in Syria
action to make freedom of religion a human rights priority in all aspects of foreign policy.
"Remembering our neighbours is vital for a healthy society," said Rachel Lampard, leader of the Joint Public Issues Team, which works on behalf of the Churches. "Whilst policies protecting the most weak and vulnerable of society may not always be the most popular, they are necessary to live out the common good, regardless of political perspective."
An open letter to the Prime Minister from:
The Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Church of Scotland
The Methodist Church and
The United Reformed Church
12 May 2015
Dear Prime Minister,
We write to you on behalf of congregations present in every part of England, Scotland and
Wales representing over 800,000 Christians.
We congratulate you on your success and assure you of our prayers as you embark on
leading this new government.
During the election campaign, many churches hosted hustings meetings in their
communities, and Christians stood for elected office for different parties. We encouraged
our church members to engage in political debate as Christians with a range of views but all
committed to the common good. Our message was that Christians should consider voting in
the spirit of 'loving our neighbour', the message at the heart of the Christian gospel.
We know that your government will now face difficult choices over the implementation of
policies. We all have different understandings of what is "just" or how peace should be
achieved. We do not presume that the practice of government is simple, but a wholesome
society needs us all to ask what truth, justice, peace and wellbeing mean for the person
Jesus commands us to regard as our neighbour.
We hope and pray that as you make decisions about your programme for government, you
will choose to offer greatest support to those of our neighbours who are the weakest, the
most vulnerable and the most in need of our help. Such policies will not always be popular,
they may be politically or financially costly, but they are necessary if we are to live out the
We welcome commitments already made in this direction. We applaud the way that during
the last government you showed strong leadership in meeting your commitment to achieve
spending equivalent to 0.7% of GDP in overseas aid, and the role that you have personally
exercised as a member of the High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda. We
welcome your commitment to invest in the National Health Service, to continue to combat
the impact of climate change especially on the poorest, your action on high cost credit, your
engagement with devolution of further powers for Scotland, and your pledges to extend
free childcare and boost opportunities for young people through education and learning.
As you know, churches are committed to supporting and working alongside their local
communities every day of the week, running projects such as credit unions, foodbanks,
training centres, homeless centres, and older persons' drop in centres.
Many are also involved in striving for a society in which, for example, the need for emergency food
provision has been eradicated because the systemic problem of food poverty has been
effectively addressed. As such we bring perspectives from communities across the country.
But we are also international organisations, connected to Christian sisters and brothers
around the world, and so bring viewpoints from countries across the globe.
Therefore we have concerns which are local and global. We will continue to work on a
range of issues which have been of concern to our church members for some time, and
hope to be able to meet with your government to discuss them further. For example:
Our experience and research has led us to be deeply concerned about the damage
caused, particularly to vulnerable people, through the benefits sanctions system and
we ask your government to undertake a full review.
We are committed to a world free of nuclear weapons. We hope that you will
support the international call to make the use of nuclear weapons illegitimate under
international law and consider a deferral of a decision on Trident in 2016 to enable
the UK to play a full part in new multilateral disarmament initiatives.
We pray for peace in Syria and the surrounding region and urge that assertive
international action is taken to uphold human rights and deliver humanitarian
assistance to over 11 million Syrians who have been displaced by the conflict.
Christians and other religious minorities are facing persecution, and we ask that your
government makes freedom of religion or belief a human rights priority in all aspects
of foreign policy.
We look forward to discussing these and other issues with you further.
We are aware of the particular opportunities and challenges which your government will
face following the electoral success of the Scottish National Party in Scotland. Proposals for
the transfer of additional powers to Scotland which followed the referendum need now to
In every part of the United Kingdom, local churches will be writing to their newly elected
MPs pledging to pray for them and work with them. Once again, may we assure you and
your government of the prayers of the people of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the
Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church as we all seek to
ensure that our society puts at its heart the principles of truth, justice, peace and wellbeing.
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