Archbishops’ Pastoral Letter – General Election

The Church of England has published the following Press Release on the 2017 General Election in which the Archbishops highlight the place of faith in British life. 

General Election 2017: Archbishops highlight the place of faith in British life
06 May 2017 

Faith has a central role to play in politics and this general election, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York say today.

In a pastoral letter to the parishes and chaplaincies of the Church of England, Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu urge people to set aside “apathy and cynicism” and draw new inspiration from the ancient Christian virtues of “love, trust and hope”.

The three-page letter, intended to be shared in churches from this Sunday onward, encourages voters to remember Britain’s Christian history and heritage as well as a concern for future generations and God’s creation as they make their decisions.

Following divisions of recent years, it calls for reconciliation drawing on shared British values based on cohesion, courage and stability.

It upholds marriage, family and households as the building blocks of society which should be “nurtured and supported” as a “blessing”.

At a time when political differences may be felt more intensely than ever, the Archbishops insist that Christians’ “first obligation” during the election and beyond is to pray for those standing for office and recognise the personal costs and burdens carried by those in political life and by their families.

But Christians also have a duty to play an active part in the process, they add.

The letter also calls for space for faith in political debate and says politicians must be free to speak openly about their own beliefs and convictions and treated fairly for doing so.

“This election is being contested against the backdrop of deep and profound questions of identity,” they say.

“Opportunities to renew and reimagine our shared values as a country and a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland only come around every few generations.

“We are in such a time.

“Our Christian heritage, our current choices and our obligations to future generations and to God’s world will all play a shaping role.

“If our shared British values are to carry the weight of where we now stand and the challenges ahead of us, they must have at their core cohesion, courage and stability.”

The Archbishops highlight major concerns over poverty, housing and the dangers of “crushing” debt among other issues.

They call for a generous and hospitable welcome to refugees and migrants but also warn against being “deaf to the legitimate concerns” about the scale of migration into some communities.

They also single out the importance of standing up for those suffering persecution on grounds of faith around the world.

Faith, they argue, has a unique role to play in preventing extremism and religiously motivated violence.

“Contemporary politics needs to re-evaluate the importance of religious belief,” they insist.

“The assumptions of secularism are not a reliable guide to the way the world works, nor will they enable us to understand the place of faith in other people’s lives.

“Parishes and Chaplaincies of the Church of England serve people of all faiths and none.

“Their contribution and that of other denominations and faiths to the well-being of the nation is immense – schools, food banks, social support, childcare among many others – and is freely offered. But the role of faith in society is not just measured in terms of service delivery.

“The new Parliament, if it is to take religious freedom seriously, must treat as an essential task the improvement of religious literacy.”

They add: “Political responses to the problems of religiously-motivated violence and extremism, at home and overseas, must also recognise that solutions will not be found simply in further secularisation of the public realm.”

The full pastoral letter can be read here.


Our review of the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter prior to the 2015 General Election is here.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Archbishops’ Pastoral Letter – General Election" in Law & Religion UK, 6 May 2017,

4 thoughts on “Archbishops’ Pastoral Letter – General Election

  1. If that’s what they consider “highlighting” the place of faith in British life looks like, I dread to think how a press release would look that they considered obscured it.

  2. The Archbishop writes:-
    “Their [Anglican] contribution and that of other denominations and faiths to the well-being of the nation is immense – schools, food banks, social support, childcare among many others – and is freely offered. But the role of faith in society is not just measured in terms of service delivery.”
    NOTE “freely offered”.
    But, unaccountably, the Anglican and Free Churches demand that ministry to hospital patients must be funded from NHS budget. A charitable trust to fund this is, it seems, unthinkable. No justification for this position is offered. So money desperately needed for nurses, midwives is spent on clerics.

  3. I consider this statement to be disgraceful.
    In imparting emphasis to the concepts of stability and stable communities, they are flagging up who they expect their followers to vote for.
    Only one political party has adopted a mind-numbing mantra of strong and stable government.
    What other conclusion can anyone come to?
    I consider this a disgraceful intervention by an unelected unrepresentative organisation which – even so – has automatic representation in our Parliament.
    As members of the House of Lords, how dare the Archbishops intervene in the general election in such a partisan way?
    They should keep their opinions to themselves – and let the people decide in a democracy; not a theocracy – much as they would like that to be the case.
    This further reinforces the need for removal of all unelected religionists from Parliament.
    Their statement also makes reference – yet again – to so-called religious literacy, which I interpret as a form of special pleading to be allowed to conduct religious indoctrination of vulnerable people in general and vulnerable children in particular.
    The fact that this letter is ‘intended to be shared in churches from this Sunday onward’ suggests – to me, at least – that this ‘letter’ is intended to sway the way in which church attenders will vote on Thursday, June 8th – and for one party only.
    A disgraceful abuse of church power.

  4. Pingback: The Freethinker - The voice of atheism since 1881 » NSS President attacks Church of England’s pastoral letter

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