Following the recent post on the Westminster Declaration, I was interested to see that Faithworks, the charity founded by Steve Chalke, has refused to sign the declaration. The press release states;
“Faithworks believes that participation in democracy is crucial, and welcomes initiatives that facilitate this. However Faithworks will not be signing the Westminster Declaration, as it suggests that government should be chosen according to their responses to only three issues – protection of human life, marriage and conscience – rather than the impact of the spectrum of their policies locally, nationally and internationally. Faithworks rejects the implicit suggestion that a government who protects embryos, upholds the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage and protects freedom to express Christian beliefs is the government Christians should vote for without first examining their stance and policies regarding education, health care, welfare, poverty reduction, international development and the commitment of the local MP to the community he / she serves.
Faithworks represents 22,000 Christians from a variety of theological and political backgrounds, our theology is inclusive and not imposing, and our purpose is to encourage people to express their faith through serving others without discrimination. In contrast, the Westminster 2010 Declaration sets Christians up on a moral high ground and implicitly creates divisiveness. It does this at just the time when the church’s morality has been called into question across the world.”
They have their own declaration which calls on the next Prime Minister to;
- To recognise the vital contribution that local churches and Christian charities make providing services for local communities across the UK.
- To acknowledge the indispensible role that faith in Christ plays in the motivation and effectiveness of services developed by churches and Christian charities.
- End discrimination against churches and Christian charities in funding and the commissioning of services.
I find myself having mixed feelings on this subject. In the recent election in the US, some Christians supported Barak Obama. This in spite of the fact that his views on abortion and Gay rights would seem to be at odds with what most people would describe as evangelical thinking. They point out that these issues though important, are not the only issues. They see as a priority the candidates view on healthcare, care for the poor, world peace and the environment.
A study of history will show that some of the most disgusting regimes have had some good policies. In Romania, the Communist government under Nicolae Ceausescu, abortion was illegal. They also brutally oppressed Christians and ruled with a vicious secret police force.
Another consideration is whether the Church should be merely known not by what we are ‘for’ but by what we are ‘against’. In a recent internet survey people were asked what they thought of Christians, 26% described them as judgemental, 28% hypocritical and 15% stupid. We really have to break down these stereotypes and start living as the people of love that we called to be. We are ‘for’ people, we want to love them, stand with them and point them to Jesus.
So far in this post I have nailed my colours firmly to the fence so perhaps I should at least share where I am in my own thinking. I have signed the Westminster Declaration. The three issues identified may not be the only issues but for me they are massive.
In 2008, the last year for which there are figures available, 195,296 abortions were carried out in England and Wales alone. Less than 2,000 (1%) were aborted because there was a risk of the child being born with a handicap (there was a case a few years ago where the handicap was a cleft lip). 10% of abortions were performed after 13 weeks gestation. There are lots of emotive things that I could say but when you think about it we have destroyed literally millions of lives over the years. Their voices are not being heard.
The issue of Gay rights has been an important one in the election campaign. The three major political leaders have been seeking to outdo each other in chasing the ‘pink vote’. It was interesting that in last night’s election debate, one of the few times that the ‘red worm’ went up was when the Prime Minister spoke about equality for gay couples. Christians are not against homosexual people, they are against the teaching that homosexual practices are acceptable in the sight of God.
The freedom to proclaim the Christian message is not one that was won easily, it was purchased with the lives of people who died rather than remain silent. This freedom is now under threat since the message is unpalatable to people of other faiths and to those with lifestyles at odds with the teaching of the bible.
We do not know what the future holds for the church in the UK but we do know that we have an opportunity to speak now while our voices can be heard.