People of faith look to their faith for help when things appear shaky, as they certainly do after this General Election. For Christians the Bible speaks of "the removal of what is shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain" (Hebrews 12:27).
In trying to discern the signs of the times, we need to look beyond crude self-interest, to look at people's hopes and dreams. Along with many others, I advised people to vote with the interests of the poor and marginal in mind, so that more and more of us might receive the blessings of our society's wealth, tolerance and freedom. I believe that in this election many have done just that - have cast their vote with the poor and vulnerable at the forefront of their heart and mind. If so it was a vote of hope for all, however uncertain the result, however shaken the future may seem now.
We need that hope, here in the Diocese of Liverpool where I am bishop. Before the election was in anyone's mind I was privileged to stand beside the Mayor of Liverpool and other colleagues to launch a thorough and shocking analysis of the cumulative impact of national cuts on the vulnerable in our city and region. You can read it here:
The work revealed a very stark fact - that the most vulnerable face a double and triple whammy of benefit cuts that pile misery upon difficulty and plunge thousands into a dreadful spiral of poverty.
Because of these hard facts, the church leaders here supported and continue to support the Hope Charter (www.thehopecharter.co.uk), an initiative led by the churches to encourage all parties to sign up to five key principles:-
· The protection and provision of services to the vulnerable as a key expression of who we are
· An affirmation of social care as a recognition of human dignity
· A declaration that regional or economic discrepancy in service provision to the vulnerable is unacceptable
· A call for a long term approach to funding and taxation placing human dignity above political expediency
· A call for steps to improve conditions for carers and care workers
We sought to push and promote this vision through the noise of the election campaign. And in the present uncertainty we will continue to urge and encourage that these vital matters remain on the political agenda of those who emerge to lead this country. Why? Because the way we treat the least and the most vulnerable is the one true measure of our society's health and future.
As a Christian bishop and pastor I am deeply concerned about the society we have made. I am deeply concerned for the struggling families whose only hope is to turn to the emergency help of a Foodbank. I am deeply concerned for anyone debilitated by illness and forced to live on the uncertain diet of welfare benefits that are increasingly targeted and cut. This is not the society I want. This is not the society my faith tells me that God wants. This is quite simply not how it should be.
This week we face a period of political uncertainty. The politicians we have elected will now have to live out the promises they made to us. But beneath the manifestos and the soundbites, people a decent society where all are secure. They want to live free from fear, and also in peace and dignity. In short, they want to I've in hope.
Before the election we devised the Hope Charter to put a crucial area of social care onto the political agenda. During the election we launched it to remind all candidates, of whatever party, about these important issues as they campaigned and debated. The election is done but the issues won't go away. For the sake of the poor and vulnerable we need those in power to adopt and promote the Hope Charter. And we need your voice to keep that hope alive.
Once again we have seen "the removal of what is shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain". What remains is rooted in God's eternal life - hope, and mutual respect, and care, and love. Please continue to speak and pray and struggle to see these things flourish in our changing times.