Churches form coalition at party conferences

The Big Society, affordable housing and poverty will be on theagenda when senior leaders and representatives of five Churchorganisations meet with politicians and activists at the three mainparty conferences this autumn.

A delegation from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the MethodistChurch, Quakers, The Salvation Army and United Reformed Church willattend the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative partyconferences in September and October to discuss their sharedconcerns.

Members of the public are being encouraged to attend the freeconference fringe events organised by the Free Churches andChristian groups within the political parties. These will includebreakfast meetings on particular themes involving political partyspeakers and Churches.

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

Michael Bartlet, Parliamentary Liaison Secretary for the ReligiousSociety of Friends (Quakers) said: "Our ecumenical presence atparty conferences affirms the value of political participation andthe continuing relevance of faith in public life."

Frank Kantor, Secretary for Church & Society for the UnitedReformed Church, added: "The party conferences are taking placeamidst a backdrop of the most stringent cuts in a generation andthe church leaders are looking forward to engaging with MPs fromall three political parties, looking at how we can mitigate theimpact of these cuts on the poorest in our society."

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

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

As well as offering prayer support and a visible Christian witnessat the party conferences, the group aims to ensure that sharedChristian views are clearly heard by politicians of allparties.

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

Party Conference Details
At the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Liverpool, AndrewStunell MP of the Department of Communities and Local Governmentand Michael Bartlet of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)will lead a time of discussion and reflection. This event will takeplace at 8am Tuesday 21 September at the Quaker Meeting House, 22School Lane, L1 3BT. For details visit www.ldcf.net Churchrepresentatives will then meet with politicians including SteveWebb 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 achurch Service at 10:30am Sunday 26 September organised by TheChristian Socialist Movement in Manchester Cathedral. A prayerbreakfast, at 8am Tuesday 28 September in conjunction with theChristian Socialist Movement and Housing Justice, will discuss thecrisis 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 conferencevisit www.thecsm.org.uk The delegation will then meet with a rangeof politicians including David Lammy MP, Stephen Timms MP, and JohnDenham MP.

At the Conservative Conference in Birmingham David Burrowes MP andThe Salvation Army's Secretary for Communications Lieut-ColonelMarion Drew Will lead the breakfast on Tuesday 5 October. Thedelegation will also attend the Conservative Christian FellowshipConference service on Monday 4 October, and will meet politicianssuch as.Greg Clark MP, minister at the Department for Communitiesand Local Government, and Andrew Selous MP.

For more information visit www.ccfwebsite.com