Gillan Scott
Playing our part

By guest contributor Gillan Scott, deputy editor at Archbishop Cranmer

I love the story of a member of the Liberal Democrat Christian Fellowship who went to their party conference a few years ago. At a fringe meeting on poverty she found herself in conversation with the man sitting next to her. “Of course what we really should do is to raise the tax threshold so that those on low incomes don’t have to pay tax,” he said. The LDCF member turned to him and said, ‘That’s a brilliant idea!’ He said, ‘Oh no, it would never work in practice though…’ Undeterred, she went away and did a lot of research on the idea, to see how it might work. She got others involved and managed to put together a policy proposal to present at the following party conference. The idea was voted on and endorsed and so became party policy. In 2010 the Liberal Democrats entered government with the Conservatives and her vision was implemented, taking 2 million people out of paying tax altogether. The LDCF member behind this does not work for the party and is not an MP, but she is a Christian and has a heart for the poor.

Christians in 2014 were again changing the nature and language of politics of this country. The landmark Modern Slavery Bill would not have happened according to Fiona Bruce MP without the work of Stop the Traffik founded by Steve Chalke. The appalling plight of Christians in the Middle East has been raised repeatedly by many prominent Christians through the media. As a consequence Labour have taken a significant step forward and pledged that if they win the next election, they will establish a Global Envoy for Religious Freedom.

The most obvious and significant impact that Christians have had though is on the issue of food poverty. Foodbanks have been gaining attention over the last couple of years, but they repeatedly hit the headlines over the last 12 months. When Panorama devoted a programme to them in March, every place visited was run by churches and Christian organisations. The End Hunger Fast campaign which made the front pages of the papers was orchestrated by the Rev Keith Hebden and the recent Feeding Britain report was produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty, which is dominated by Christians.

In the case of foodbanks and food poverty, the reason why politicians and the media have taken such an interest in it is not because of celebrities or any big names, but rather that the work of thousands of dedicated Christians, getting on and doing what they believe is the right thing, has been impossible to ignore.

The Bible demands Christians engage with the world though the sharing of the Gospel through words and deeds. Jesus spread the good news of the Father’s love, healed the sick and confronted politicians and leaders. Often I get the impression at the moment that if Christians fail to stick up for the vulnerable and challenge injustice, few others are going to step in and do it instead. There is power in the work of the Church because God is in it, but also because the whole body of Christ is involved in making it happen, bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth.

2015 is set to be a monumental year with the coming General Election. It will provide plenty of opportunity for Christians once again to influence and even steer political conversations and agendas. All of us can play a part to make sure God’s values are not ignored through such things as organising and attending hustings, challenging candidates to give their views on important issues and reminding politicians that religious belief is still an important feature in this nation and deserves to be taken seriously and valued. Those who are putting it into practice do much good by serving their communities have proved that beyond doubt.

Christianity continues to offer hope both for individuals and our society. Will we commit to playing our part over the coming year to ensure that Christians are right at the heart of the action and not finding ourselves observing from the sidelines wishing things were different?

Find out more about how you can play your part by coming to the Jubilee+ Faith + Justice conference in February! The early-bird rate ends on Friday.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guest contributors are those of the author. Although broadly in keeping with the objectives of Jubilee+, the views and opinions of the guest do not necessarily represent those of the Jubilee+ team and directors and/or other contributors to this site.