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Chris's Pastoral Letter
GENERAL ELECTION HUSTINGS
St. Paul's Church
Sat 1 May 2010 7.30pm
We can't escape the idea that the country is preparing for what is being perceived as the most important Elections for many years. Newspapers have pages and pages of coverage each day; correspondents are writing letter to the 'Gazette' commending their own Party candidates; T.V. is enjoying it's first live debate between the main Party Leaders; and Opinion Polls are having a field day - with predictions being 'poles apart'!
Many voters will probably already know where their vote will be targeted, but others have been declared the 'undecided' and are (hopefully) keenly listening to the various political arguments before making their final decision.
The first thing that needs to be stressed is that we have a responsibility to exercise our God-given right and register our vote at this coming General Election. Many have fought in previous generations to ensure that we enjoy a high degree of freedom and 'democracy'. The latter may be flawed - but it's better than being denied a voice as is the case in too many countries.
Tragically the turn-out may be low if previous elections have anything to go by - some suggesting that there is a high degree of complacency within the electorate - but then the 'abstainers' will no doubt complain bitterly afterwards at the subsequent result
! All Governments (whether they recognise it or not) are under the authority of God, and therefore must seek to embrace such policies that seek to promote a society that values every person but particularly protects the ill, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.
Paul, in his Letter to the Romans writes: 'Every person must submit to the authorities in power, for all authority comes from God, and the existing authorities are instituted by Him' [Romans 13:1]. The URC acknowledges this fact in the basis of Union: 'Civil authorities are called to serve God's Will of justice and peace for all humankind and to respect the rights of conscience and belief', but then adds its own rider to the effect that: 'In the things that affect obedience to God, the Church is not subordinate to the State, but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head'.
One of the things that the Churches Together in Clacton (along with churches in neighbouring areas) is offering locally to help prepare ourselves for Polling Day is that of a Hustings Meeting to be held on Saturday 1 May at St. Paul's (7.30pm). The event is seeking to provide an opportunity locally for voters to hear the candidates express their views in a non-partisan atmosphere. To date, five candidates have accepted an invitation to attend the event, and we will seek to discuss wide-ranging issues that are important to our local area as well as larger concerns.
You need to be aware that the British National Party have put forward a candidate, and, following a lengthy debate at the first planning meeting, it was decided that an invitation should be extended to this party to allow their participation in the Hustings. We took into consideration that all main-line churches have issued statements discouraging its members from voting for the BNP on the grounds that their racial stance is 'incompatible with the message of the Gospel', yet we believe that, to exclude, might lead to negative publicity in favour of the BNP. We therefore accepted that it was better for the electorate to hear at first hand their policies so that they could compare their stated position with that of other candidates.
The precise format of the subjects covered, and the structure of debates and audience participation has yet to be established. The local clergy have been invited to meet together to determine how best to present the evenings debate for the benefit of all attending. We appreciate that this is being hosted initially to give local churches the opportunity to meet the candidates, but because it is an open meeting, the wider communities - and representatives of the various candidates and parties - are likely to be in attendance. This is all the more reason why, should you be free that evening, you attempt to attend. The other being that, afterwards, you might be in a better position to make an 'informed' decision on Polling Day!
The United Reformed Church, Methodist Church and Baptist Union of Great Britain, working together through the Joint Public Issues Team, have helped Churches Together in Britain and Ireland to prepare resources, and advice for churches and church leaders who are staging such events, and these documents, which cover a range of the most important policy issues, are guiding our thoughts and preparations.
Rachel Lampard, Team Leader and political specialist within the Joint Public Team, said: 'This a great opportunity for local churches to be at the heart of political debate and to provide an important service to the community .....'
Above all else, before you place your 'cross' on the voting paper, spend some time in prayerful considerations, that we may all seek to know that which is God's Will and not ours ...
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