Election Thoughts from Bishop Peter

So it has been decided. There is to be a General Election on 12 December and much has been made of the fact that this is the first December election since 1923. Things could be worse however, as the 1885 General Election took place over three weeks from 24 November to 18 December 1885. It was nonetheless an important milestone in social history, as it extended voting rights so that for the first time a majority of adult males could vote and most constituencies returned only a single member to Parliament. These were quite radical developments and at that election large numbers of men voted for the first time. It saw the Liberals, led by Gladstone win the most seats, but not an overall majority, with the Irish Nationalists holding the balance of power and the Unionist MPs having a significant voice. The 1885 election also saw the first socialist party, the Social Democratic Freedom participate.

So significant was this election that my predecessor, Bishop Arthur Hervey, wrote an open letter on 2 October 1885 suggesting that ‘all Christian subjects of the Queen had a duty of special prayer to Almighty God that He will be pleased to guide the minds of the Electors to make such a choice of representatives as shall tend most to the glory of God, the honour and welfare of our Sovereign, and the happiness of the people.’ In His view Parliament was responsible for establishing ‘peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety’ and the ‘welfare of all people.’ In asking people to pray, as well as to vote, he made it clear that whilst people would have different ‘political leanings’ that they needed to come together to pray for the ‘peace and happiness of the nation at large’.

I think we all know that this General Election before us now will similarly be critical in helping to determine the future of the United Kingdom – at least for the immediate future. In writing this article I am therefore seeking to follow Bishop Arthur Hervey by reminding us all of the responsibility we have to pray for our country and to work with all people for the welfare and the well-being of everyone.

With my prayers and very best wishes,

The Right Revd Peter Hancock

Treasure the Earth

As I write this parish letter, we are in the midst of two weeks of action by Extinction Rebellion drawing our attention to the concerns of climate change. Following Greta Thunberg’s rousing speech to the UN and the various climate strikes undertaken by young people around the world, we are becoming more aware of the dangers of neglecting such an important matter. Whether we are young and passionate about this issue or one of Boris’s so-called ‘crusties’ and equally passionate, it seems to me that we are all called to be passionate about caring for the world God has made, and which He has entrusted to our care.

The fifth Mark of Mission calls for us to ‘Treasure the Earth’ or, to ‘safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’. Here in Bath and Wells we focus on placing mission and evangelism at the heart of all we do. This often means we highlight the story of Jesus and the opportunity for us to know God’s grace and forgiveness in personal ways. All really important for us to know how much we are loved. However, mission and evangelism isn’t just limited to those people we live amongst in the present day. St Paul speaks about how our salvation and that of the world or creation are bound up together….

‘The created universe is waiting with eager expectation for God’s children to be revealed. It was made subject to frustration, not of its own choice but by the will of him who subjected it, yet with the hope that the universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and is to enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God.’ Romans 8: 19-21

Sometimes I hear people dismiss concerns for the world and its future as being insignificant in the light of the eternal hope we have in Christ. I think this misguided and often selfish. It’s a bit like the attitude which says, ‘well as long as it sees me out!…’

This month you have the opportunity to get involved yourself. On Monday 18th November at Wells Cathedral and in Christ Church, Weston-Super-Mare on Saturday November 9th, there are opportunities for you to find out more. Look on the diocesan website.

And it’s not just for individual action, we as a diocese want to encourage churches to look at how they might become Eco churches in the way in which they respond in worship, theological reflection, make practical changes to their carbon footprint, and in bringing about that freedom for the whole universe to be sustained and renewed.

What might you get passionate about and do?

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton