A couple of weekend’s ago the Joint Public Issues Team conference ‘Love Your Neighbour: Think, Pray, Vote’ took place in Coventry. Personal highlights included the keynote speech from the Archbishop of Canterbury (which you can both read and listen to in full) and the chance we had to meet together as young people who were there on the day to unpack some of what we’d been hearing. What follows is a mix of some of the thoughts shared during the day, and some of my reflections on them.

Andrew standing with Archbishop Justin Welby and URC General Assembly Moderator John Ellis
I hadn’t expected to have the opportunity to meet Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it was a privilege!

Firstly, to suggest that followers of Jesus should not engage with politics is to fundamentally misconstrue the Gospel – both individually and together as the church. Further, as Christians we fail to live out our faith fully if and when we choose to hide under our duvets and hope that matters of governance will have disappeared by the time we reappear. I enjoyed David Mitchell’s article a few weeks back on this, not least because of his agnostic perspective: ‘If church leaders can’t complain about poverty who on Earth can?’

To declare ‘Jesus is Lord’ was a deeply political statement at the time of our Saviour’s crucifixion, and it remains a deeply political statement to this day. It is, of course, much more than that too…

The conference joining together in opening worship.
#ThinkPrayVote in full swing

Secondly, the church isn’t merely an NGO with a nice pointy roof. And let’s face it – many URCs don’t even have a spire! The point here is that as church we have a vital and prophetic role in engaging in matters of justice, which includes engaging with politics. We must not forget, however, that if our faith was a coin, social justice would be on one side and evangelism would be on the other. As the church we are mandated to share the greatest hope, the greatest Good News, imaginable. Our God loves: abundantly, lavishly, indiscriminately. We must not be shy about sharing this truth.

As our God is a God of hope, that’s just how we should strive to live. May our lives be hopeful, joyful, constantly celebrating God – everywhere and always. In our lives, may we pursue justice and proclaim good news not out of a grudging sense of duty but from a place of deep relationship with our God.

Thirdly, the message of #ThinkPrayVote was, above all, a call to action. The church is most effective when it is active and outward looking. It’s no good to be inward looking, navel gazing and overly nostalgic as we go about our mission together. Jesus’ commandment to love God and to love our neighbour speaks volumes to me about how we should respond to the upcoming General Election: by prayerfully and thoughtfully voting come May 7th.

Personal conviction can and will lead us to differing conclusions about how we should use that vote. No one party has a monopoly on good ideas, after all. Archbishop Justin Welby rightly argues that we can shape change in society for the better of all – so will you be a part of that change?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

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