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That they may have Life

Posted on: May 25, 2001 12:13 PM
Related Categories: Abp Carey, Abp Hope, England

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr George Carey and Dr. David Hope, have today (Friday 25 May) issued a joint open letter concerning the forthcoming general election.

An Open Letter from the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York to the
people and parishes of the Church of England

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At its best politics is about values, about what we consider most important. That is what faith is about too. Both go to the heart of the matter. In their different ways they affect fundamentally how we live together in God's creation.

Jesus said, 'I came that they may have life and have it to the full.' He offers restoration, new, abundant life. As Easter has reminded us, his life-restoring work was costly. But it was a gift for all, a gift to enable women and men to live unselfishly, like Jesus, for others.

A political life that loses sight of such values is itself diminished. Yet we all sense how tempting it can be, especially in an election season, for the short-term, the negative and the self-serving to dominate the political stage; for the political spotlight to focus less on what is in the long-term interests of us all, than on what can inflict the maximum short-term damage on political opponents.

Not only is that wrong from a Christian perspective, it does not serve the best interests of the society which we all share.

But what at this time should Christians be looking for? How might we gauge whether the cross we mark on the ballot paper shadows the cross of Jesus? Of course, there are various interpretations of how best to reflect this in policies and manifestos. We are fortunate to have a democracy that provides political choices.

Categorically, we make no covert appeal to you to vote for one party or another. We should honour the call to public service and pray that God may guide all those who seek to represent us.

Before we make our choice, we should give attention to the underlying beliefs and values of the individual candidates. Their personal attitudes and moral outlook, as well as the policies of the party to which they belong, will be part of the consideration when deciding where to mark our cross.

When Jesus said 'I came that they may have life and have it to the full', he was not uttering a political slogan. But it was a statement that will resonate with Christians in a variety of ways as they consider their electoral choices.

How do those choices speak to the stranger in our midst and to those on the margins of our prosperity? How do they meet the challenge of loving our neighbour as ourselves -- not just across the stairwell or the garden fence - but across the deep divide between town and country? How do they value marriage and the family for the communities we build and the offspring we nurture, or the schools and colleges in which those children learn? How do they address the task of caring responsibly for all of God's creation? And in that wider world, how do they view those in desperate need beyond our shores?

These are just some of the areas of inquiry that may help us relate the cross of Christ to the ballot box. There are many more, which time and circumstance will help to shape.

So we urge you to vote, to see your vote as part of your Christian commitment and to use your vote that all may have life.

Yours in Christ,

Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of York