General Election

A photo of a pencil on a polling card

Resourcing and empowering churches to engage with a General Election period

The General Election has been announced for 4 July, so now is the time for churches and individuals to take action.

The church has long been involved in politics in various ways, and we continue to be called to ‘seek the welfare of the city’ (Jeremiah 29:7), including on environmental issues and addressing poverty and inequality in our communities.

Political parties' manifestos have been written, so we have an opportunity to ensure our local candidates are committed to focusing on the important issues and holding those elected accountable to deliver on their promises.

There are a number of ways you can engage locally with the election period, with parishes uniquely placed to advocate on behalf of the issues and needs of our communities.

Pray your Part

Pray Your Part is an invitation from the bishops of the Church of England to encourage prayer and participation in the life of our nation and communities, both as voters and as citizens.

This 21-day journey of prayer and reflection (from Friday 14 June until Election Day on 4 July) is designed for use in the run-up to the UK General Election. Each day explores a different theme, with a short Bible reading, reflection and prayer for a different aspect of our common life.

Find out more and sign up | Download the litany | See a sneak peek of the content

Why should I get involved?

As churches we care about what goes on in our villages, towns, and cities, and how governance affects the people in our parishes. We are privileged to live in a country with a democratic system of governance. In order for democracy to function well, it requires citizens to exercise their power and voice, rather than assuming those in elected positions (our MPs) will manage everything. Whilst important, there's more to democratic engagement than just voting.

As Christians we have a unique view of the world, and believe in a God who longs for humanity to flourish. Consider the Lord's Prayer: how do we usher in ‘God’s kingdom’ on ‘earth as in heaven’? One way is by seeking to engage with the political system, asking for decisions and laws to reflect heavenly aspirations on issues of poverty and inequality. When Christians engage with democratic systems and politics, they're part of conversations and decision-making which help mould the direction of our country’s politics.

Is church political?

Some people believe that the very presence of the church is political - by living for God and meeting together, we are making a statement about what we value and how we want society to look. This is why in some countries across the world, where politicial leaders see the church as a threat to their power and rule, it is prohibited to be a Christian or gather as church.

In England, the Church of England is the state (or ‘established’) church, which means we are to some degree entwined with our state, with the monarch (our head of state), and to our state government. Some bishops, including Bishop Steven, are part of the House of Lords. They scrutinise legislation, hold the government to account, and consider public policy. 

Much of the liturgy of the Church of England could be called political, not least the Magnificat which quotes Mary’s prayer and proclaimes the nature of God as one who:

“…has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly... has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Desmond Tutu is cited as saying: ‘When people tell me that the Bible has nothing to do with politics, I ask them “Which Bible are you talking about?”’

Is the Church independent and impartial?

It is important to bear in mind that churches are accountable to charity law (even if not registered with the Charity Commission) which prevents some aspects of lobbying during an election cycle. This doesn’t prevent all engagement, but it is important to understand what is and isn’t allowed during this time. Don’t let this put you off – your church can be involved in elections as long as it is within the boundaries of charity law.

A charity must stress its independence and impartiality and ensure involvement with political parties is balanced; they cannot support a political party but can support specific policies if it helps them achieve their charitable purpose. You should read the Charity Commission guidance, with section 4.4 focused on the specificities once an election has been called. More in-depth information on elections and referendums for charities is available here.

During election periods campaigning activities are also covered by the Electoral Commission - read their information on why the Lobby Act shouldn’t stop charities from campaigning.

If you would like more advice specifically related to churches, contact JPIT at enquiries@jointpublicissues.org.uk or on 020 7916 8632.

Further reading and upcoming events

Want to know a bit more? We recommend:

How can we help you?

I want to... Get inspired | Use my church building as a polling station Find some support | Go beyond the election

What can I do?

 

As a church

1. Become a Voter Registration Champion

The Electoral Commission estimates that around 26 million eligible voters will miss out on voting at the next General Election because they haven't properly registered, don't have photo ID, or won't turn out to vote on the day.

You're at greater risk of not being able to participate in the democratic process if you are young, a non-UK national, rent your home, have moved recently, live in an economically-disadvantaged community, or are from an ethnic minority.

Your church can encourage democratic participation in your area by giving reminders on registration, ID, and voting dates in your pew sheets or e-news, sharing in service notices, running a voter registration event after your Sunday service or at your community groups. Even if people aren't British Citizens, they may still be eligible to vote (eg if they're from Commonwealth countries), so encourage people to check using the Can I Vote? search tool.

Find out how to accredit as a Voter Registration Champion with Citizens UK.

2. Host a hustings event

A hustings is an election meeting during a general election period. Hustings support the democratic process, facilitate public debate, and help people know who their local candidates are and what they stand for. They can also be the start of relationship-building. Continuing to work with MPs between elections is crucial for building good working relationships, raising issues important to your community, and keeping them accountable.

Hustings are normally organised locally by churches (often ecumenically through Churches Together networks) and communities. If a hustings isn't being planned in your constituency, your church could host it.

Resources for running a hustings:

3. Pray and preach

As a church, be praying for the election period; for your candidates, for respect and kindness during political debate, and that whoever forms the next government takes issues of poverty, inequality, and the environment seriously.

It can feel daunting to preach on politics during the election period, but it's vital for us to explore how our faith speaks into and interacts with politics today, and to encourage our congregations to be active citizens and voters.

Resources for prayer and preaching:

Using a church building as a polling station...

If you are approached with a request to use your church building as a polling station, it could be a great way to engage with and serve your community.

The Diocesan Chancellor has granted an interim faculty for church buildings to be used as polling stations, subject to an affirmative resolution by the relevant PCC and with insurers being notified in writing. This permission is limited to elections during 2024. 

Please contact Helen Lambourne (Oxford Diocesan Registry Clerk) for queries or if your parish would like to request permission to use your church building as a polling station.


As an individual 

Unlike churches, parishioners are able to support a specific political party and to engage in any range of political activity or campaigning, assuming it is within the boundaries of the law.

Here's four things you could do this election season:

  1. Sign up for free daily reflections ahead of the election to join in prayer for our nation and play your part as a citizen and voter.
  2. Vote - register to votecheck what photo ID you need to take to the polling station, and find out who you can vote for. (Even if you're not a British Citizen, you may still be able to vote, so check here.)
  3. Attend a hustings - a public meeting where election candidates speak to potential voters, allowing you to hear directly from them and ask questions. Find out where your local hustings is and go along. It might even be at your church!
  4. Read Citizens UK’s General Election Manifesto setting out eight key issues they are asking the next UK Government to address.

You might also like to explore our Environment and Social Justice pages to learn more about current issues.

I want to... Get inspired | Use my church building as a polling station Find some support | Go beyond the election

Support and training

Citizens UK Churches’ Community for Practice

A series for churches to explore the theological take on the General Election, including strategies for mission and ministry in the context of General Election strategy: voter ID, voter registration, community engagement, and how we can prepare for the election. Underlying all these themes will be the agenda of working at all times for social justice.

  • Thursday 6 June, 4pm
  • Thursday 5 September, 4pm

Faith in Public: Political Theology for Mission

A three-day residential in London by Church Mission Society and Theos.

  • 11-13 July 2024

More resources

I want to... Get inspired | Use my church building as a polling station Find some support | Go beyond the election

Beyond the election

Elections aren’t the only time you can help shape the political direction. Here are some ways you can engage beyond the elections...

Join a political party

Don’t sit on the sidelines - get involved with a political party to help be part of a team working to shape the agenda. You join others to get involved with events and campaign days to help elect candidates, and vote on aspects of the party. You might even stand as an election candidate yourself one day.

You’re unlikely to find a party with whom you agree with on everything, but join one with whom you agree with most and help shape their policies.

Run the Influence Course

Run this interactive six-week course in small groups to explore the Biblical basis of our call to public life, and how we can be active participants not just armchair commentators.

Meet your MP

JPIT explains how you can build positive links between you and your MP, more than just sending an occasional email. This gives your MP an opportunity to better understand the activities and concerns of their local community – update them on the good things you and your church are involved in, and the difficulties or challenges facing those in your community. See some top tips here.

You can also...

Even if there’s nothing specific you need your MP to do at this point, engagement now can still be important to grow a strong relationship which will aid you in the future if something important arises.

For getting a meeting…
  1. Does anyone in your church have an existing relationship with them? Involve them if this relationship might be helpful.
  2. Write them a clear, short email, making it clear you are in their constituency (put your address at the end of the email)
  3. Chase them if you don’t hear back (email, phone, or in person during their surgery hours!)
During the meeting…
  1. Be warm and positive; build a relationship and a collaborative approach. It may sound obvious, but treat them with the dignity and kindness you would anyone else. A confrontational or accusatory meeting is unlikely to be productive.
  2. Be clear about what the MP can do (this could be action or promoting a campaign/event – decide this before the meeting!)
  3. Get details of the relevant person in their team to follow up with
After the meeting…
  1. Accountability – follow up with what they agreed to do, and keep their team informed about your work/event/campaign
  2. Consider carefully whether you want to be publicly critical; it may damage the relationship you’re building
  3. Continue to build the relationship! Follow their campaigns and contributions locally and in Parliament. Consider if you can support their work or feed in insights from your local involvements.

Join Citizens UK

Explore joining Citizens UK, an alliance of local faith groups, schools, charities, and unions in Reading, Oxford, or Milton Keynes, to act on issues related to the needs of local people. This might be through forming and joining campaigns, conversations with powerholders, and engagement with MPs.

Not near an existing alliance? Get in touch with Hannah Ling, diocesan Social Justice Advisor, or Keith Hebden from Citizens UK.

Read

We recommend:

  • Those Who Show Up, Andy Flannagan (Christians in Politics) – a book on the importance of being involved in politics, not just watching from the sidelines, and how this fits with faith.
  • Just Mission: Practical Politics for Local Churches, Helen Cameron – an introduction to political and public theology for churches to see how to use the democratic process to achieve justice
  • Politics & Mission: Rediscovering the Political Power of what Christians do, Bishop of Kingston, Martin Gainsborough – looking at how the church’s liturgy is powerful counter-cultural, and through this, the church is uniquely political
  • Faith in Democracy: Framing a Politics of Deep Diversity, Jonathan Chaplain – considering the place of faith in public life, finding a third way beyond ‘secularism’ and the ‘Christian nation’

I want to... Get inspired | Use my church building as a polling station Find some support | Go beyond the election

Page last updated: Friday 14th June 2024 2:34 PM
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