This was one of the new Ten Commandments drawn up by Christians on the Left and launched at last week’s Labour Party conference. These commandments, though light-hearted, were conceived as a way of helping Christians speak into often fractious constituency meetings, by encouraging people to disagree well, being quick to listen and slow to speak, showing hospitality by buying the first round, seeing the good in everyone and choosing love.
Church leaders from the Baptist Union, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church met with Louise Davies, Director of the group, to talk about the role of Christians in the party. The Ten Commandments initiative has taken off within the Labour Party, being endorsed by Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and popular amongst party members, whether or not they are Christians.
This delegation of Church Leaders is part of an annual visit to the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Party Conferences. The group aims to affirm the calling of Christians in local or national politics and share concerns about our society and world.
As part of the delegation, leaders always participate in the prayer breakfasts at the Conferences. At the Christians on the Left breakfast, Revd Michaela Youngson gave an inspiring reflection on prayer. Prayer is a revolutionary act, she said, because it is a declaration that we believe change is possible, recognising that God’s heart is with the poor and oppressed.
Michaela reflected on her day at the Labour Conference, saying “It was encouraging to see the level of passion and engagement with issues, as well as the openness to the place of faith in public life with those we met. The things that were at the top of their agenda are at the top of ours – even if we disagree with the ways of doing it.”
The group discovered much to discuss – points of agreement as well as disagreement – in their conversations with Christian politicians during the course of the day. Stephen Timms, MP for Newham, discussed the possible impact of Brexit on the poorest, along with gambling and Universal Credit. Janet Daby MP, the newest MP, who was elected in Lewisham East in June of this year, spoke about establishing a foodbank and the importance of defending those caught up by the “hostile environment”.
Moderator of the URC General Assembly, Derek Estill, reflected on the value of the delegation, saying “meeting together like this demonstrated unity across our various denominations”. Bala Gnanapragasam, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference concluded “What became clear in conversations and in prayers is that churches can play a full part in bringing about change for the better. The challenge for us is to understand how to participate most effectively.”