Yesterday evening Radio 4 reported that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called for an end to income inequality. That was the headline at least. I’d imagine there’s more to say than that. But the intervention of these Senior Anglican clerics into the world of Government and has apparently irked some politicians. Can they reasonably expect Christians not to have something to contribute to wider debates about policy decisions?! Though they may wish it so, the Bible simply cannot be kept out of the public square. But, the ensuing debate on the radio served to highlight how ill-equipped I felt to be able to contribute very much to the discussion.
And so, last Monday afternoon’s staff training day on Government and Politics was well timed. At the start of the church year we’d taken the decision to introduce termly staff training. Of course, as part of a network of churches like Co-Mission, we’re big on training. There’s Co-Mission staff training as well as the weekly Apprentices’ Workshop and so on. It’s a pretty training-tastic environment to be in. But we wanted to do something just for those us at CCB, equipping us for our particular context.
And so this term we decided to ‘do’ Government and Politics. We’ve got an election coming up in this country in May. And we wanted to be prepared for it. And we wanted to be able to prepare the congregation for it as well. And so I asked a few trusted friends for advice, surfed the interweb and put together a realistic package to accommodate the diversity of our staff team.
We listened to a talk on the Gospel Coalition website on Romans 13 by Richard Coekin. We wanted to begin with biblical exposition. It’s not everything you’d want to say on how Christians are meant to relate to government, but it’s not far off. For anyone familiar with Richard’s preaching, the opening ‘stab points’ are pure gold as he sets the discussion in the wider biblical context. It’s certainly a great place to start thinking about these issues.
We read an article from The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics by Jonathan Chaplin. It’s entitled ‘How shoukld Christians vote in 2010?’ It stimulated helpful discussion about the nature and significance of voting, especially in a context where no one party adopts a biblical position on all the issues.
We watched a DVD recorded talk by Wayne Grudem, available from the Christian Institute, on Christian influence on Government. It’s long. Just over an hour. But it’s good. It’s essentially the first few chapters of his book ‘Politics’ condensed. The talk is entitled ‘Does ‘political’ involvement distract from the gospel?’ As we discovered that’s somewhat miselading. It’s only a part of the talk. Nevertheless, the talk is well worth listening to.
As a result of the afternoon, I don’t think we’re sorted on the issues. But we are at least engaged with them. And we’re probably clearer on what questions we’d like to find biblical answers to. And so we’re not done. It’s encouraged us to read some more and to think some more. And we’ll have some ‘Thinking about an Issue’ slots for evening church that will force us to do both!