Both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland are taking steps to ensure that their churches are involved in public debate, and in protecting the most vulnerable in society. This shows a true following of Jesus' ministry, John Milne writes.
In his book Credo the Rev William Sloane Coffin asserts that "...Christianity is a worldview that undergirds progressive thought and action... To know God is to do justice. To recognize this implacable moral imperative of the faith represents the kind of good religion that mixes well with politics."
I was thus particularly impressed by the assertion from the Church of England Bishops (February 2015) to the effect that "the church has a duty to join the political debate" in order to participate in the development of “a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be”.
The Church of Scotland also recognises the need to speak prophetically. For instance two of the purposes of its Church and Society Council are to lead the Church of Scotland in "being Prophetic – making theological, ethical and spiritual contributions to public policy and decision-making with a bias to the poor, speaking for the Church of Scotland on these issues, speaking truth to power and bringing to that voice the authenticity of congregational experiences. Being Missional – discerning and communicating the Gospel for 21st-century living in areas of public thinking, policy development, political debate and media discourse, especially in places that it is usually unheard, promoting action and campaigns on issues of need and helping others see and know the love of God."
Furthermore the Church of Scotland has given "Priority to the Poorest", an ethos now deeply embedded in its structures. The 2001 General Assembly stated: ‘priority for the poorest and most marginalised is the gospel imperative facing the whole Church and not just the Church in our poorest communities.’ Subsequent General Assemblies have re-affirmed that commitment and, even more importantly, the whole Church has sought to embody it with resources of buildings, people, money and time." This commitment to its poorest communities ..... is what gives the Church the authority to speak out on many of the critical justice issues of our day." (Extracted from Priority Areas Action Plan General Assembly 2014.)
But I think that, in these perilous times, the Kirk needs to be a lot more vociferous "especially in places that it is usually unheard". It must declare loudly and clearly the answer to Micah's question that stands at the heart of Jesus’s ministry: “And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” —Micah 6: 8
It must "speak truth to power" without fear of the inevitable criticism from the obvious political quarters.
That is its business.
John Milne is a CotL member and volunteer based in Uddingston, South Lanarkshire.