Encouraging Debate
3 October 2019 by Bishop David Urquhart

Encouraging Debate

At a political level there is a strong sense both in Parliament and Party Conferences that “the time is out of joint” and a frantic search for someone or something “to set it right”. Amongst the electorate the most common question I hear is ‘for whom or what should I vote for, come a General Election?’

That is a question I never answer directly but I do encourage more debate about the principles and priorities that could guide an effective government.

This is a tall order when our screens and minds are filled with the personalities of power and the bitterness of Brexit.

At this distance from an unspecified date on which we will be asked to exercise a vote, it is well to pause to check our basic assumptions.

Church of England Bishops highlighted some principles in a recent statement. One, that in public and private debate, respect for persons, their dignity and safety is essential.

Practising good conversation takes effort and discipline with the reward of deeper understanding, better decision-making and more mature relationships. There are several models for this which are being used and developed in CofE Birmingham and I hope many more people will be willing to risk setting aside time to tackle difficult issues and so stem them our common life.

Another principle is that the Rule of Law must be upheld. A Supreme Court judgement on prorogation published last month illustrates the importance of an independent judiciary and the checks and balances that are essential to our democracy. An outcome of the current crisis is a likely call for a Commission on the Constitution to develop our unwritten system and restore trust in our democratic processes.

For wider reading I recommend Tom Holland’s ‘Dominion’ in which he affirms the roots of our society in Christian principles highlighting ‘the oneness of the human race and the obligation of care for the weak and suffering’. Also the novel by Robert Harris ‘The Second Sleep’ in which he gives a surprising pastoral role to the Church in a Britain following global catastrophe.

Now is not a time for Hamlet’s gloomy introspection but for a renewed confidence of self giving through the grace of God who in Lord Jesus “so loved the world”.