17 September 2009

Churches' delegation to attend the three main political party conferences

Christian leaders will engage with politicians at the three main party political conferences over the next few weeks.

Senior representatives from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and The Salvation Army will attend the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences to discuss their shared concerns.

The Churches' delegation will emphasise the importance of working together to achieve international agreements which address climate change, fairer trade arrangements and the regulation of financial markets in order to benefit the poorest communities. Nuclear weapons, asylum seekers and migration will also feature on the Christian group's agenda.

Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: "At each party conference we will meet with politicians, listening to their concerns and sharing our own. Politicians, whether they work at a national, regional or local level, often feel disconnected from the Churches and this is a wonderful opportunity to make contact with them and assure them of our prayerful concern."

As well as building relationships, the representatives will offer visible support for the ministry of Christians involved in politics, promote the work of the Churches and strengthen ecumenical links through discussions on social issues.

Richard Vautrey, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, said: "We want to offer our support for the ministry of Christians involved in politics as well as to highlight the importance of Christian engagement with politics."

For several years the Churches have been coming together to organise a joint delegation to the party conferences, and it has now become an established date in the Church leaders' calendar.

The Revd John Marsh, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, said: "The party conferences are taking place in an election year at a time of widespread disillusionment in the political process in the UK following the MPs' expenses scandal. We look forward to engaging with politicians at the party conferences this year to encourage them to continue pursuing constitutional renewal to restore confidence in the political process."

This year the delegation will be supporting the work of Citizens for Sanctuary; a campaign calling for justice for people seeking sanctuary, following the report of the Independent Asylum Commission last year.

Tim Stone, Public Affairs Officer for The Salvation Army UK and Ireland, said: "Especially now, at this time of economic crisis, The Salvation Army is joining with other Christian Churches to remind politicians of the plight of the most vulnerable in society.

"When budgets are tight, it may be too easy for decision makers to consider slashing public funding for families and individuals without being held fully to account. However, there is growing evidence that failing to look after all members of our society will only store up more problems for tomorrow."

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