The Archbishop of Wales is urging people to vote at next month’s General Election and to vote for policies to benefit poor and oppressed people.
In a key note address to members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales today (April 15), Dr Barry Morgan defended the Church’s right to speak out on political issues and encouraged parishes to tackle voter apathy.
Poverty, hunger, refugees, unemployment and crime were as much God’s concern as saying prayers, reading the Bible and going to church, he said, adding the Bible clearly showed God on the side of the poor and oppressed.
The Archbishop blamed voter apathy on a general cynicism about politics and politicians and also the loss of a sense of community. He said it was sad that people didn’t vote after the right to do so had been won relatively recently, and ironic that they chose not to exercise a right that other people in the world still desperately wanted.
He contrasted voter apathy with the widespread protests for freedom of expression following the Charlie Hebdo murders in France in January. Dr Morgan said both freedom of expression and the freedom to vote should be used responsibly and with respect for others
The Archbishop’s address came at the start of the two-day meeting of the Governing Body at the Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells.
He said, “We have the freedom to act purely in our own interests and vote for policies that will benefit us personally the most, but we also have the freedom to vote for policies that will be of most benefit to the common good, even though they might not be of benefit to us personally.”
He added, “Politics with a small ‘p’ is the way we organise ourselves in society, and if bishops and Christians have nothing to say at all about how we organise ourselves in society and the issues which confront us every day, then we have emptied the Christian faith of a great deal of its content, which urges us to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. Running through the whole of the Bible is the belief that God is on the side of the poor, the disadvantaged, the fatherless, widows, orphans, and strangers…..If the church of God does not speak out against structures that enslave and oppress people, then it is merely paying lip service to the teaching of Jesus about good news for the poor….
“If God is the creator of this world, the plight of the poor, refugees, lack of employment, hunger, violence towards others are of vital concern to Him, not just whether one says one’s prayers, reads the Bible, and goes to church. The fact that many of our churches help to run food banks, parent and toddler groups, organise lunch clubs or drop-in centres for the elderly and for asylum seekers, are involved in credit unions and give advice on debt, welfare benefits and unemployment show that we believe that God is interested in every aspect of life. The church may not have the answers to any of these issues but it has the right to ask questions about systems and structures that affect people’s lives.”
The Archbishop encouraged churches to hold hustings. He said, “One of the tasks of the church during the run up to the General Election could be to tackle voter apathy by engaging in the democratic process. We could encourage people to vote and help inform them by, for example, holding hustings where politicians of all parties can be invited to respond on their attitudes to a whole range of subjects.”
Dr Morgan highlighted the results of the Wales We Want survey as a guide for informing how we should vote for the well-being of future generations.
He said, “Those are some of the issues that we face not only in Wales but in the UK as a whole. What the survey showed as well was that negative political campaigning was of little worth. What was needed was a positive long-term vision for our society as a whole to ensure the wellbeing of all its members.”
You can follow proceedings via Twitter @ChurchinWales #govbody