A few weeks ago I signed the Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience. A number of key Christian leaders including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, the head of the Evangelical Alliance Steve Clifford, and the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland Cardinal Keith O’Brien are among over 36,000 people who have signed this declaration.
I now regret signing this declaration. It seems very narrowly focussed, urging Christians to vote according to their conscience in the General Election, with three issues particularly in mind – protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience.
Much of the Declaration is positive. In what it does say about protecting human life, marriage, and the freedom of conscience, I would be comfortable with. My issue is more with what is not mentioned in the document, it seems to be too narrow, for example in the section written about Human Life the declaration lists a number of issues that threaten human life, which I agree with, including abortion, euthanasia, poverty, and environmental damage. But it doesn’t seem to make any reference to the damage from warfare. On the point regarding religious conscience it seems to be framed around Christians being persecuted, which seems to ignore the wider issue of religious liberty within the UK, for example how we support those Muslims who have been unfairly targeted in recent years.
But even more than a wider view of conscience and ethics I find it amazing that it says so little around key issues for this election: trusting elected representatives working in a seemingly corrupt system, potentially massive cuts in public services which will disproportionately hit the weakest in our local communities since they are the ones who depend most on those services. Surely without being overly party political there could have been a way of touching on this issues.
As Faithworks has said , the “government should [not] be chosen according to their responses to only three issues – protection of human life, marriage and conscience – rather than the impact of the spectrum of their policies locally, nationally and internationally”.
According to Christian Today cross-party group, Christians in Politics, have also expressed concerns, saying that while there was “much to commend”, there was “much to question about its timing, depth and tone”…
“It has also been inevitably hampered by the lack of consultation with Christian Parliamentarians and the main Christian groups involved in praying and serving with our political infrastructure. There is also a danger that people will judge the faith of a Christian standing for election, merely by whether or not they have signed this pledge. We urge people not to do so.”