My Kingdom is not of this world. Really?

The Bishop of Liverpool has delivered the first Wilfrid lecture of 2010 reflecting on the relationship between church and politics.

The Bishop of Liverpool, The Right Rev James Jones will deliver the first St Wilfrid Lecture of 2010 at Ripon Cathedral on the relationship between church and politics. The Bishop will set out the Christian principles he believes are essential for building a secure society. He will describe six ‘ethical pillars’ of public policy: fairness, freedom, family, friendship, faith and the future and how in each of those areas the Christian “Kingdom Values” may impact.

Bishop James argues that the church has a right to a role within the political life of society stating that “the spiritual renewal of our people is a prerequisite in creating a just society that is more at peace with itself.” He talks about the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the world and states that “everything Jesus did and taught was extending the rule of God on earth”

The Bishop equates globalisation to the kingdom that Jesus talked about calling it the “steady expansive extension of God’s rule over the earth and the climactic establishing of the values of his Kingdom”. The Bishop urges caution before Christians criticise globalisation as a phenomenon stating “if there are any questions to be raised about globalisation it’s not about the phenomenon itself but about the values of some of the globalising empires.”
The speech covered some wide ranging areas but show that the Bishop has not lost his “ambition to see the world changed”.

The Bishop talks about:-
•   The fact that the state is “ordained by God for the common good” but while the church should accept the state’s authority Christians have claimed a “God given right to freedom of expression” and expresses discomfort with the unintended consequences of the Incitement to Religious Hatred Act which may undermine excellent relationships between Christian and Muslim Communities
•   The need for capitalism and the market to be tempered by other principles that protect the weak. He argues for community regeneration strategies that are the “combination of the spiritual, economic and social which targets low self-esteem, creates real jobs and local wealth and involves and enables local people to shape their own future.“
•   A need for a “renewed political sense of the importance of the family”. He argues that the tax and benefits system should support marriage and but also states “We need new strategies to engage the hard-to-reach parents who are the ones most at risk of neglecting their children and abandoning them to dysfunctionality and criminal behaviour.”
•   The fact that “the future stability of our society and the world depends on the good relationships between the faith communities” and points to the excellent relationship he has in Liverpool with the Muslim community
•   The unique place that the Church of England occupies historically, culturally and constitutionally and the belief that “the Christian faith speaks timeless truth to a changing world” but that the church should not identify with any political party. He states “The church should confine itself to expounding the theological and moral principles upon which public policy should be built. It may even stray into areas of policy. It shouldn’t enter the polling booth by steering its members on how to vote.”
•   The fact “the earth is not a limitless larder” and calls for the tax system to be used to express biblical and ecological values and “should not be imposed simply as a means of Government raising more revenue for profligate government”

Finally Bishop James concluded by stating that “any proposal to replace an appointed second Chamber with a fully elected House would be a mistake” He states that “We need to recover the unity of Parliament in the constitutional debate – two Houses but one Parliament: a Commons that is elected and with the authority of having the last word, and a revising Chamber to advise, revise and refine the legislation.”