20 September 2010

Churches form coalition at party conferences

The Big Society, affordable housing and poverty will be on the agenda when senior leaders and representatives of five Church organisations meet with politicians and activists at the three main party conferences this autumn.

A delegation from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, Quakers, The Salvation Army and United Reformed Church will attend the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences in September and October to discuss their shared concerns.

Members of the public are being encouraged to attend the free conference fringe events organised by the Free Churches and Christian groups within the political parties. These will include breakfast meetings on particular themes involving political party speakers and Churches.

Revd Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Conference, said: "Some people believe that politicians don't "do God" and that the Churches shouldn't get involved in political life. Our delegation to the party conferences demonstrates that the Churches value the vocation of those who work to improve our society through political life. We won't always agree with their policies, but we welcome the opportunity to engage with them over our shared concerns for the world."

Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary for the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) said: "Our ecumenical presence at party conferences affirms the value of political participation and the continuing relevance of faith in public life."

Frank Kantor, Secretary for Church & Society for the United Reformed Church, added: "The party conferences are taking place amidst a backdrop of the most stringent cuts in a generation and the church leaders are looking forward to engaging with MPs from all three political parties, looking at how we can mitigate the impact of these cuts on the poorest in our society."

The Revd Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, indicated that, 'at a time when the role of faith in the public arena is high on the agenda, it is vital that churches contribute to creating a society that is fair and just for all.'

The Church organisations came together several years ago to organise a delegation to the party conferences. The visits have now become a regular date in the Church leaders' calendar.

As well as offering prayer support and a visible Christian witness at the party conferences, the group aims to ensure that shared Christian views are clearly heard by politicians of all parties.

Lieut-Colonel Marion Drew, The Salvation Army's Secretary for Communications, said: "By being at the party conferences the Churches can develop and reinforce relationships, particularly with Christian politicians and party members, discuss important issues in an ecumenical forum and provide support and encouragement to people living in the public eye. Christian friends in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham are encouraged to attend and take part in these meetings wherever possible."

Party Conference Details
At the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Liverpool, Andrew Stunell MP of the Department of Communities and Local Government and Michael Bartlet of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) will lead a time of discussion and reflection. This event will take place at 8am Tuesday 21 September at the Quaker Meeting House, 22 School Lane, L1 3BT. For details visit www.ldcf.net Church representatives will then meet with politicians including Steve Webb MP, Minister of State for Pensions, and Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, Secretary of State for Climate Change.

Events in Manchester at the Labour Party Conference will include a church Service at 10:30am Sunday 26 September organised by The Christian Socialist Movement in Manchester Cathedral. A prayer breakfast, at 8am Tuesday 28 September in conjunction with the Christian Socialist Movement and Housing Justice, will discuss the crisis in affordable housing with speakers including the Rt. Hon. Alun Michael MP and Susan Elan Jones MP.

For details of other events during the Labour Party conference visit www.thecsm.org.uk The delegation will then meet with a range of politicians including David Lammy MP, Stephen Timms MP, and John Denham MP.

At the Conservative Conference in Birmingham David Burrowes MP and The Salvation Army's Secretary for Communications Lieut-Colonel Marion Drew Will lead the breakfast on Tuesday 5 October. The delegation will also attend the Conservative Christian Fellowship Conference service on Monday 4 October, and will meet politicians such as.Greg Clark MP, minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Andrew Selous MP.

For more information visit www.ccfwebsite.com

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