Labour's manifesto offers hope

Labour's election manifesto offers real hope to the country, says Christians on the Left.

The commitment to equality and the pledges to help raise living standards speak to the concerns identified by church leaders, such as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Labour's manifesto states that Labour intends to be:

"the Party of work, family, and community. We believe in a society of trust and mutual obligation, in which we look after the vulnerable, and people can bring up families with hope for a better future."

Church leaders have highlighted rising inequality and a society in which 900,000 people are using food banks. The manifesto answers these concerns:

"We believe that no person should suffer discrimination or a lack of opportunity. The decisions we take in government will always be taken with this in mind. The policies in our manifesto will help remove the barriers that stand in the way of greater equality. We know we achieve more when we work together to challenge the inequalities of power and build a common good."

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Responding to Church Times poll

This week's Church Times contains the results of a YouGov opinion poll of voting intentions. It indicates that religious people are more likely to vote Conservative.

The poll puts both Labour and the Conservatives on 34%. However, of those who regard themselves as religious, 42% say they would vote Conservative and 31% Labour. Of particular interest to Church Times, 48% of Anglicans say they will vote Conservative compared to 27% Labour (for Roman Catholics, the figures are 31% and 42% respectively).

However, this is only one poll and the polling data on religious affiliation and voting intentions have been mixed. For example, the Evangelical Alliance last month published data (from a comprehensive survey last year) that showed voting intentions 31% Labour and 28% Conservative. Moreover, the Church Times data looks at voting by religious affiliation, which is different to looking at active church members.

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Churches Update

The Labour Party's latest Churches Update is now out. Focusing on the General Election, it begins with a message from Labour leader Ed Miliband. Writing about Labour's links with the churches, Ed Miliband comments: 

"As the Leader of the Labour Party I am proud of our movement’s roots in the Christian tradition. That tradition underpins our conviction about the importance of social action and our belief in the power of community transformation. "

The Churches Update also includes contributions from the CEOs of Christian organisations involved in a variety of social action and campaigning, saying what they would like to see from the next government.

The Churches Update can be downloaded here.

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Uk strengthens its covenant with global poor

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‘I am delighted that now after years of campaigning by faith groups and charities a legal commitment has been made to commit 0.7% of GNI as Official Development Assistance. This significant achievement is a cause that was resolutely championed by the Labour Party over recent decades and Labour MPs and Peers played a decisive role in ensuring its success. We have strengthened our covenant with the global poor and many lives will be saved and changed as a result.’ 

 Rt Hon Stephen Timms, Chair of Christians on the Left

 On Monday 9 March 2015 the UK became the first G7 member to enshrine in law its commitment to spending 0.7% on official development assistance. The Official Development Assistance Bill now awaits a date for Royal Assent where the Bill will become an Act of parliament.

Christians on the left is proud that the Bill cleared its final hurdle in the House of Lords and that several of our members championed and actively fought for this. We would like to thank those members, particularly those MPs and Peers who worked so tirelessly to see the 0.7% target enshrined in law.

We would also like to acknowledge the work done by The Labour Campaign For International Development for its commitment to see a world without poverty and injustice. 1 in 4 of the Labour MP’s who voted for the Bill were LCID members or encouraged to attend the vote by LCID.

You can read more about this and the Labour party’s commitment to international development here

You can access the Bill here

You can find out more about the campaign #turnupsavelives and the question of why Aid is needed here

 

 

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Prayer in the square




Show-Upwp.pngSHOW UP - BOOK READING AND PRAYER in PARLIAMENT SQUARE

Thursday 19th March – 4pm to 7pm (prayer 6pm to 7pm)

Please join us in prayer or in person next Thursday. The campaign has been incredibly encouraging. Already we have three members standing for the first time in council elections having been inspired by the SHOW UP video! 

The SHOW UP campaign has had a significant impact in its first few weeks. Its provocative video has caught the imagination of many Christians and has already been shown in many churches. It continues with a call to SHOW UP in prayer for the nation and the coming election. The book of the campaign “Those Who Show Up” by Andy Flannagan explains more of the thinking and stories behind the call to more positive Christian engagement in politics. showup.png.jpg

In the spirit of his book, Andy Flannagan will show up in Parliament Square on Thursday 19th March (come hail or high water) and read it. He will start at 4pm, finishing at 6pm and then in keeping with the last section of the book, the 6pm to 7pm slot will be a corporate time of prayer for the nation and the 2015 General Election.

Please consider coming to support Andy for a half hour slot (or longer) at some point between 4pm and 7pm. 

If you can’t make it down, then please join with us in prayer at 6pm from wherever you are. This prayer may be helpful.

GOD OF ALL GOVERNMENT

God of all Government,
Send workers into the harvest field of political life.
Call your people. Not simply those who pay you lip service,
But those who hear your voice and know your name,

Those who will not serve two masters,
Those who will choose kingdom over tribe,
Those who are not ashamed of the gospel,
Those who will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,

Those who will seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow,
Those who will seek to reconcile more than separate,
Those who will seek to co-operate more than compete,
Those who will seek peace more than power.

Those who will choose your glory over self-promotion,
Those who will choose truth over expediency,

Those who will listen to the still, small voice more than the megaphone of the media,
Those who will care for the least of these, rather than genuflect to the greatest.

Those who find their identity and security in divine election more than election by man,

Those whose citizenship is in heaven, and whose primary allegiance is to another King,

Those who cannot help but speak of the reason for the hope that they have,
Those who know your grace for their failings. 

Call out an army that will march on its knees in humility
To fight not just with the weapons of this world
But the invisible ammunition of your Kingdom.
 
AMEN

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A welcome for the religious liberty commission

80% of all acts of religious discrimination across the world are aimed at Christians (Statistics from the International Society for RLC.pngHuman Rights). The coverage of the acts of Isil in Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria in recent months has brought the suffering of many Christians across the world back into the public realm. In response it seems that persecution is receiving oppportunity for an increased representation in our political institutions with the introduction of the Religious Liberty Commission on the 4th February and the recent promises from Douglas Alexander (shadow foreign secretary) that a Labour government would introduce a global faith envoy to bring a 'strong focus' to persecuted faith.

The Religious Liberty Commission has been set up by Open Doors, Release International and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The key aim in setting up the organisation has been to provide one voice for organisation tackling the persecution of Christians across the world.

Douglas Alexander has also pledged that a Labour Government would introduce a global faith envoy, accusing the Government of Douglas_Alexander_1398729i.jpg'stepping back' in its efforts to tackle religious persecution. He did also say though that 'this is an issue beyond party politics' and that he would support the coalition Government if it implemented these plans and took a stronger stance.

The Bible tells us to love our brothers and sisters in faith and it is fundamental that the plights of the persecuted remain in our prayers. As we further spread word of the 'show up' campaign in the lead up to this election it also important that we encourage opportunities for the persecuted church to be represented in UK politics. We can also be excited at the fact this is already beginning with the Religious Liberty Commission and it is a cause for celebration in giving the work of amazing organisations tackling persecution a clear format to have a single clear message.

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Show Up - The Book

TWSU.jpgWe've been delighted by the response to the Show Up campaign. Churches up and down the country, from Lairg to Lizard via Lambeth Palace, have been showing the video and sharing the resources.

As part of the campaign, Andy has written a brilliant book which can now be ordered online. 

This book won’t try to get you to vote for a particular party. It isn’t going to try to get you to vote at all. Something far better.

It’s going to show you that you could be voted for. That it could be your name on the ballot paper. Or that you could be working with someone whose name is, influencing your community more than you ever imagined.

From food banks to debt counselling, soup vans to street pastors, the church is doing an amazing job treating the victims of a flawed system. But it’s never going to be enough. Unless we also get involved in the decision-making process.

God cares deeply about the heart of our state, as well as the state of our hearts. And, as Bart Simpson once famously discovered, the vote is won – and history is made, and the kingdom advanced – by those who show up.


What People Are Saying

Andy is reaching out, inspiring and equipping us to become engaged with a system that affects us deeply, and through which we in turn can effect radical and transformational change across our society.  -  Justin Welby

Andy’s passion, biblical insight and story-telling ability will convince even the most sceptical that they could and should be more than mere commentators on politics. - Gary Streeter MP

A book that powerfully challenges our misconceptions about politics and asks us not to stand on the side lines and moan but to get involved. - Patrick Regan OBE, Founder & CEO, XLP

Books about politics can often be worthy yet a little dull. This is far from the case with Those Who Show Up. Andy wears his humour and heart on his sleeve and by the end I would be surprised if you aren’t signing up. - Tim Farron MP

At a time when too many have given up on politics, Andy Flannagan issues a compelling clarion call for the churches to grasp the opportunity to serve.  In my work, I see no group or network better placed to do so.  And he is right: there is the opportunity for our politics to be transformed, and for democracy to be renewed.Stephen Timms MP

Andy is a poet, a troubadour, and a master storyteller.  His words are like incense, rising out of the muck and pain and poetry of the margins…Shane Claiborne

Christians cannot stand on the sidelines any longer where politics is concerned! We need to get actively and prayerfully involved to see transformation in our communities and Nation. It is when we show up and engage with our world  that we can influence what happens in our Nation and pray His Kingdom Come. I recommend this book as a prophetic call to engage.Dr Jonathan Oloyede, Convenor of the National Day of Prayer and Worship

 

If you want to pre-order the book, then you can do that right here.

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The battle to end inequality

As the World economic forum’s annual summit draws to a close, Oxfam have released a report including staggering new statistics concerning economic inequality. The charity states that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York and Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury have oxfam_logo.jpgalso warned that economic growth pursued maniacally has increased inequality, which has to be tackled.

Oxfam made similar statements last year ahead of the Davos summit, but the situation has only got worse. It seems that although wealth inequality may have moved up the political agenda effective action has not been taken. Furthermore, Oxfam’s report also indicates a rising use of money in lobbying government – especially in the United States where lobbying is concentrated largely on tax issues which ‘can directly undermine public interests’ (Oxfam report). 

Winnie Byanyima (Executive director, Oxfam international) will be attending the annual meeting in Davos and in a report points out that “across rich and poor countries alike, this inequality is fuelling conflict, corroding democracies and damaging growth itself”. Evidently, wealth inequality in its extreme is detrimental to society and must change: emphasised further by the extent this money leads to political power: $50bn is spent by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry on lobbying each year in the EU (data from Oxfam report). 

If trends continue, inequality is only set to increase across the world. Oxfam predict that by 2016 the top 1% will have more than 50% of total global wealth, as figures also suggest the wealth of those at the bottom will decrease. The effects of inequality are also highlighted in Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s book ‘the spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do better’ where it shows that for 11 key health/social problems (physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies and child well being) outcomes are significantly worse in unequal countries. Inequality impacts every aspect of society negatively, clearly something needs to be done to reverse it, quickly. 

In terms of the UK, statistics have also been released today that for every 12 jobs created in the South 1 is lost in the North. Economic divides are regional too, and inequality exists in every neighbourhood.  As Christians we can work to support those that are struggling in our communities and try and bridge the gap between the rich and poor through the church. 

These facts are also particularly poignant in the wake of the launch of the ‘Show up’ campaign last Tuesday. This campaign is focused on getting Christians actively involved in influencing politics. As Christians, we are called to see ‘justice flow like a river’ (Amos 5:24), the current economic system is simply not delivering this and we need to affect change. Wealth is accumulated by the same few people, and power is concentrated among them – at the expense of everyone else.

Helping those suffering in our communities is important, influencing change is increasingly important, and getting on board with the ‘show up’ campaign is just one way we can attempt to change the political climate –  determined ever more by statistics such as those released today, and enthused by the work of charities such as Oxfam that have a voice for the poor to the highest political positions In the world. 

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Election 2015 #showup

The Evangelical alliance has put together a hub for all things election related. This is a really helpful resource, looking at why we should vote, how to register and why as Christians we should show up. It also contains links to the political parties and how to images.jpgorganise a hustings.  http://election2015.eauk.org/

You can also find information about Show Up Sunday, 25 January where churches across the UK are being asked to get on-board with Show Up and take a few minutes to play the Show Up video and talk about why it's important for Christians to vote in the upcoming election and participate in the political process.  For more information about #Show Up you can also check out http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/show_up_a_sneak_peak  on the Christians on the left website. 

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Show Up - a sneak peak

 

showup.pngWe are delighted to be part of the SHOW UP campaign which is gathering steam across the UK. You may have already seen the excellent campaign video. If not, you can watch it below. You can also find more resources for the campaign by visiting this website

 

 

The book of the campaign is called “Those who show up”, written by our director Andy, and here we can let you see a sneak peak sample of it. You can get hold of the whole thing from http://muddypearl.com/books/those-who-show-up/

 

 

SHOW UP 

In the second series of the animated TV show ‘The Simpsons’ there is a fascinating episode called “Lisa’s Substitute”. It includes an amusing subplot set in her brother Bart’s classroom in which he and his classmates must elect a class president. Their teacher Mrs. Krabappel nominates the outstanding pupil Martin, while Sherri and Terri nominate the less-than-outstanding Bart. During a ‘Presidential Debate’ Bart tells a series of infantile jokes which win the support of his classmates, much to the disgust of Martin who wants to focus on ‘the issues’. Bart is buoyed by the frenzied adulation like a teenage pop sensation. The groundswell is so overwhelming that Bart is obviously going to win by a landslide. He is in fact so confident of his victory that he does not even bother to vote. However his huge confidence has spread to his wide-eyed followers, who similarly do not feel the need to turn up at the ballot box. In fact the only kids who do vote are Martin (who votes for himself) and Wendell Borton (who also votes for Martin). Nobody had predicted that the kid famed for his nerdiness and nausea would be the king-maker!

The point here is not whether Bart should have been elected class president. This is not Florida and the year is not 2000. The point is also not whether Bart would have made a better class president than Martin (I think you may know the answer to that one). The point is that the firmly held opinions of Bart’s classmates counted for nothing because they did not ‘show up’. There is a difference between holding an opinion and actually expressing it. Then there is a further difference between just expressing that opinion out into the ether, and formally standing by it in something like an election. You can wish me ‘Happy Birthday’ on Facebook all you like, but it will mean an awful lot more to me if you actually show up at my party in person. One action takes three tenths of a second and the other takes considerably longer. Much of our modern-day campaigning is effectively ‘cost-free’. We click and share a good cause and that’s that. This book is about the intriguing discipleship and adventure that happens when what we believe starts to cost us something in terms of time, effort or reputation. Sorry – I hope you weren’t expecting a slick sales pitch. 

‘Hang on, is this another book telling me how important it is to vote?’ Actually no. I can already hear you saying, “But there isn’t anyone I want to vote for – I am equally unimpressed with all of the parties”. Tell me about it. No, this isn’t another book trying to convince you to do that. It isn’t trying to get you to vote. It’s going to suggest that you could be voted for. It’s going to suggest that it could be your name on the ballot paper. Or that you could be helping someone whose name is. It’s going to suggest that in one small way, Bart Simpson could be your role model for life. 

People all over the UK are unimpressed with politics and politicians. This book will delve into some of the reasons for this, but hopefully also point in the direction of some remedies. The passion expressed in the Scottish referendum campaign shows that people do care about how their countries and communities are run. The question is will we allow those thoughts to recline as mere opinions, or will we let them take a stand? All of us know the frustration of harbouring an opinion but feeling unable to express it meaningfully. In home or work contexts it usually leads to a lot of bitterness and resentment. As a nation (and especially as the church) we are in danger of sliding in that direction unless we break out of the mindset that we will simply always be the commentators, and not the participants. 

THOSE WHO SHOW UP 

No-one seems to be certain who first coined the famous phrase, “Decisions are made by those who show up”. Its potential authors include a range of people from former US Presidents to movie-maker Woody Allen, and it was popularised by its use in the American TV show “The West Wing”.

But whoever first uttered the phrase, it is hard to argue with. Throughout history, history has been made by those who show up. Decisions ARE made by those who show up. Not necessarily by the smartest, not necessarily by the most qualified, not necessarily by those of the best character, not necessarily by those who may have gleaned some divine wisdom, but by those who like Wendell Borton simply show up. It is sobering, but perhaps also empowering. You don’t need outrageous gifting to show up. You just need a body. 

The same is true throughout the stories of scripture. Yes, at times God moves in miraculous invisible ways, but much more frequently he moves through one or more of his unremarkable people who seem to be in the right ordinary place at the right time. The CVs of Gideon, Moses, or Rahab were not exactly screaming out for their respective jobs. They just showed up in obedience.

Where do people ‘show up’? I hear you cry. They show up in a variety of places which may not always be obvious. They show up at local residents’ meetings. They show up at parents’ associations. They show up at safer neighbourhood groups. They show up at town council meetings. They show up at political party branch meetings. You may well be one of them.

You see the places that these people show up are not the fun places. These places generally involve chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers and minutes. These places are generally dusty old halls. These places don’t have Welcome teams with Fairtrade coffee, doughnuts and biscuits, and even if they manage a biccie, it’ll probably just be a Rich Tea.

But these people run the world (in the macro and the micro). There are some seriously hard yards to do. There is a lot of tiresome, repetitive work that is non-negotiable. And to get to elevated positions these people have been often been showing up at some pretty dull meetings for a long time. But we rarely think about that because we usually only know about them once they’ve got to ‘the top’.

When we reflect on history we do remember those who showed up, but our focus tends to be on the endpoints rather than the starting points. We forget that in between forming an opinion and transformation occurring a lot of hard work happened. The civil rights movement didn't just believe racism was wrong. They showed up. The Suffragettes didn't just believe women should have the right to vote. They showed up. But it cost them. We don’t often read about all the meetings that paved the way for those mass movements. And there were many of them. (but they don’t make great movies.)

For example here is a summary of the minutes of the very first meeting of a campaign group (even the word ‘minutes’ has you dropping off doesn't it?)

  • They decided that the current law was bad and that the committee’s main aim was to persuade other people of that fact, mostly by producing publications
  • They decided who could be on the committee and that the Quorum would be 3 members – i.e. the minimum number who had to be present for a meeting to count.
  • They chose one of the group to be Treasurer but then said he couldn’t spend any money unless the whole committee said he could.
  • They agreed to announce what they had decided, then ask other people to join and send money. 

Then they adjourned and went for a drink.  In fact I could still take you to that very pub. It didn’t exactly feel like a dramatic start.  But these were the minutes of the first meeting on 22nd May 1787 of what would become the London Abolition Committee whose aim was to make the slave trade illegal. You can sit in the British Library holding those minutes, reading the original record book. There is no getting away from the fact that the meetings sounded quite dull. But year by year, through the leadership of folks like William Wilberforce, Olaudah Equiano and Thomas Clarkson, the campaign gathered steam, until eventually on 1st May 1807 the law outlawing the slave trade took effect. I think we can agree that even though it took twenty years, it was worth showing up at that first meeting. 

My hope and prayer is that this book will encourage you to ‘SHOW UP’ as they did. 

 

 

The SHOW UP campaign arose from a conversation between Christians in Politics and the Evangelical Alliance. It is now a growing coalition including the following organizations; the Church of England, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, National Day of Prayer, Catholic Social Action Network, Christian Aid, TearFund, Spring Harvest, CARE, The Cinnamon Network, Premier Radio, Catholic Education Service, United Christian Broadcasters, Christian Aid, Bible Society, Conservative Christian Fellowship, Christians on the Left, Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, Christians in Parliament, Fusion, FaithAction, The Salvation Army, Centre for Theology and Community, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, Release International, Kirby Laing Institute For Christian Ethics, JustLove, Jubilee Centre, Jubilee+, and the Joint Public Issues Team.

 

 

 

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