Pastoral Planning for a Super Majority image

Pastoral Planning for a Super Majority

In an election in which there was no party for which I wanted to vote, my personal opinion was that the least worst result would be a Labour victory with a small majority. This would have allowed the change of government the country needs but with sufficient challenge for it not to be able to steamroller all decisions. Clearly that was not the outcome. So what next?

Apart from the big issues of economics, foreign policy, climate change and so on, issues on which faithful Christians can legitimately disagree, what of some of the social issues? Thinking from the perspective of a Christian pastor who seeks to be biblically faithful and maintain theological orthodoxy here are some things we are now likely to face:

Issues around sexuality
Keir Starmer has already made it plain that when there is a conflict between Christian orthodoxy and the LGBT agenda he will support the latter.

The introduction of a ban on so called ‘conversion therapy’ is now as good as inevitable. This is likely to put many of us in a very difficult position. It may well be that praying with someone about their sexuality becomes illegal. It may well be that preaching a biblical sexual ethic becomes illegal. We saw sabre rattling about this just before election day when a report into former MP Miriam Cates highlighted the fact that she belonged to a church that expected gay people to, “eventually understand the need to be transformed to live in accordance with biblical revelation and orthodox church teachings.” It may be that such an understanding is criminalised.

We will need to act with the innocence of doves and the wisdom of serpents. We will also need the courage of our convictions as for some of us there will be a price to pay.

Churches should also be preparing financially for the possibility of charitable status being removed. In the decision to apply VAT to independent schools Labour has demonstrated it is not afraid to penalise charitable bodies of which it disapproves. It is certainly possible that adherence to the current sexual orthodoxy will become a requirement for churches if they are to receive the financial benefits of charitable status. Many of our churches rely on Gift Aid to meet budget. We should probably start planning for when this ceases to be the case.

Whoever had won the election it was likely that moves to legalise ‘assisted suicide’ would again have been brought before parliament. But a massive Labour majority (supported by the LibDems and Greens) means this is now more likely, and more likely to succeed where previously it had been rejected. The pastoral implications of this are significant.

As we have seen from countries like Belgium and Canada where euthanasia has already been legalised, there is always ‘mission creep’. Not only those with terminal illnesses, suffering unbearable pain, choose euthanasia, but those with mental health issues, including young people, and older people who feel a burden on their families. Palliative care tends to be undermined.

As pastors we will have to think about how to counsel those who are considering euthanasia, how to counsel the families of those who have chosen this course, and how to advise medics in our congregation who will be expected to cooperate with the process – especially in a context where exemptions on the grounds of conscience are being increasingly squeezed. And we will need to think about how we approach the funerals of those who have chosen euthanasia.

Hopefully some things will be better under the new government, others may be more challenging. Either way, the Church is called to be a faithful witness to the good news of Jesus Christ, who is eternal king over all. But we will need to do some planning.

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