The 2015 General Election was the first time that the Church of England’s House of Bishops published a document. But past recent General Elections saw statements issued by Archbishops. Summaries of those from 2001, 2005 and 2010 are below.
A summary of the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter for the 2015 General Election is here.
2010 General Election
In April 2010 the then Archbishops of Canterbury and York published a joint article in the Church Times. In it they said:
“If the general election is to be more than a celebrity contest, we must vote with our values. We must be clear about what we think is involved in being a citizen, and so what we can expect of and for citizens in this country now.
“Our society needs a rebirth of civic values and virtues – which is why we believe it is important both to vote and to encourage people of gifts and integrity to consider public office.”
They focussed on six specific areas: equality, stability, global responsibility, law and justice, children’s welfare and the needs of older people.
“We have an opportunity to leave behind some of the sterile and narrow habits of thought that have so often prevailed in our politics. At the heart of all this is one all-important question: what are the outcomes from this election that will give us confidence to move towards a more generous and less anxious society?
“Whatever the results, the issues we have flagged here will go on being at the centre of our concerns as a Church; and we hope that when the excitement is over, we can all continue to explore how these concerns can be realistically met.”
2005 General Election
In March 2005 the then Archbishop of Canterbury published an open letter to the party leaders, arguing that instead of negative campaign strategies politicians should focus on offering long-term solutions to deep-rooted challenges. He identified four such issues: the environment, international development and the arms trade, youth and family policy, and criminal justice reform.
“Despite the best of intentions, election campaigns can quickly turn into a competition about who can most effectively frighten voters with the prospect of what “The Others” are going to do. Regrettably, there seems little reason to suppose that the forthcoming general election here will be immune from such temptation.
“…I don’t envy the task you and your colleagues face in trying to formulate responses to the real challenges here. But I hope you will seek to do so in ways that do not simply allow our fears to go unexamined.
“Because there are things that really should make us tremble – rootlessness and alienation among some of our urban youth, the degradation of the environment, the downward spin into chaos and violence of large parts of the poorer world. And these simply don’t lend themselves to defensive and short-term solutions.
“…there are things we can do not just to defend but, as the prophet says, to build and to plant. As we head for the Election, this letter is a plea to see what you think can be built and planted in some of the most vulnerable situations in a vulnerable world.”
2001 General Election
In May 2001 the then Archbishops of Canterbury and York published an open letter “to the people and parishes of the Church of England”.
In it they said:
“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.”