Government and politics
The Methodist Church seeks to make its voice heard on issues of social concern and justice.
- Why does the Methodist Church think that politics is important?
The Methodist Church has long associations with political life. John Wesley was much concerned with the poor and marginalised in 18th Century Britain, many of whom were excluded from participation in the established Church as well suffering from economic deprivation.
Many of the early trade unionists, including the Tolpuddle Martyrs, were members of Methodist churches. The Methodist Parliamentary Fellowship has met for many years and holds an annual Parliamentary Methodist Covenant service in the chapel at the Palace of Westminster.
The Methodist Church has stated that 'the commitment of individual Christians to work for social and political change should be recognised as a fully legitimate form of Christian discipleship'. In a society where self interest, acquisitiveness and individual happiness are often seen as the over-riding interests, the Church, and Christians within it, are called to witness meanings, values and purposes beyond ourselves, whilst recognising our own self-interest and hypocrisy.
People sometimes argue that involvement in political life involves getting our hands dirty, so is something Christians should avoid. But we believe in a God who is present in everything, including political institutions; a God who is heard throughout the Bible calling for justice for the widows, orphans and aliens who were oppressed by the powers of the day; and a God who seeks to transform relationship with and between people. If politics is about how we choose to live together and to treat one another, there is surely a place for discerning the activity of God in politics.
- How does the Methodist Church engage with politics?
Since 2007, the Methodist Church has pursued its social justice work ecumenically with the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain, operating together as the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT). In March 2015, JPIT was joined by the Church of Scotland on a trial basis.
The Methodist Church believes that working in partnership allows Methodists to influence public policy more effectively and to share strengths with different denominations, without losing the distinctively Methodist approach.
You can see the range of issues in which the Methodist Church has been active in recent years – including poverty and inequality, the environment and climate change, nuclear weapons and the harm caused by problem drinking. The ways in which the Joint Public Issues Team aims to achieve these goals include:
- building bridges between the Church and political institutions - eg through organising the annual ecumenical delegations to the party conferences
- helping the Methodist Church to engage with public policy debates - eg through taking part in Government consultations over asylum issues
- supporting and resourcing members of Methodist churches to reflect on political issues in the light of their faith and to take action - eg through resources provided for the European and general elections.
When the Methodist Church as a body engages with political issues, it tries to follow certain principles:
- the Church must be self-critical before it presumes to be critical of others
- Church statements must demonstrate a competence which will be taken seriously
- when seeking to address a context in which people are victimised and marginalised, the Church must engage with them and give serious attention to their views
- consideration should be given to the diversity of insight in the Church, and open debate made possible within the Church
Further guidelines for the Methodist Church can be found in the Methodist Conference Report 'Speaking for the Methodist Church'
- How can I get involved with issues that I care about?
There are many ways to get involved in issues that you care about.
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- join the campaign network of an organisation that works on an issue where you want to make a difference – eg Christian Aid, the Trade Justice Movement , Housing Justice, or Church Action on Poverty. These will provide you with material to write to your MP, organise local campaigns or arrange lobbies.
- if you have expertise on a particular issue - eg addictions, genetics, employment, asylum – please write to the Joint Public Issues Team . The Methodist Church often needs to call on people with particular expertise when responding on a new policy issue.
- write to your MP. You can find out your MP's name through the Government's website parliament.uk. Then write to them at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA. Keep your letter fairly short, and ensure that the language is temperate and polite. Avoid writing in capitals, underlining or quoting from the Bible. Where possible draw on your personal experience and refer to how it relates to their constituency. Ask them to raise it with the appropriate Government minister and to reply to you. When they write back to you, feel free to continue the correspondence – turn it into a conversation!
- organise a hustings meeting for candidates for the next General Election through your local churches together group. More information can be found from the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland website
- join a Christian grouping within one of the political parties. Christians in Politics is an initiative of the Christian Socialist Movement, the Conservative Christian Fellowship and the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk
A Methodist Statement on Political Responsibility, adopted by the Methodist Conference of 1995; in Methodist Church Statements on Social Responsibility 1946-1995, 1995.
The Art of the Possible – JPIT's study resource for individuals and groups getting involved in politics
Methodist Conference Report on Church, State and Establishment
Speaking on behalf of the Methodist Church