Bishop of Hereford's Article - Hereford Times 24/01/19

    Talking Points
    24 Jan. 2019
    Writing “Talking Point” every three weeks, with my contributions sandwiched between those of our two local MPs, prompts a question for me. Does this suggest that I should try to be “politics-free”, or should I ensure that amateur views are expressed?

    Last month an opinion poll found that 44 per cent of the population thought it was inappropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to offer political opinions.

    The Archbishop is vastly more politically astute and involved than I am, but the principle is the same. Politics is about how we live; so too is faith. It’s an odd faith which has no implications for our politics.

    I frankly believe that many of those who react against religious leaders offering political opinions really mean, “I’m against them doing so unless their views agree with mine.”

    The great South American Roman Catholic Archbishop, now a saint, Oscar Romero said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist.”

    So what about Brexit? The situation changes so often that it’s not easy to be topical on the detail, but my basic attitude to it is, “Yes, I have strong views myself, but I also have to say to myself as much as to anyone else, that having strong views does not mean there should be a lack of respect for others.”

    I have made no secret of the fact that I deeply regret Brexit. I think we have as a United Kingdom scored an own goal. We’ll get through the current chaos, yes, but the cost will have been enormous, especially for the most poor and vulnerable. I have never been more convinced about anything – but I have to accept that you may think differently and try not to fall out with you over it.

    Where I was brought up, there was a saying, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That’s nonsense: abusive language can poison relationships and prevent reconciliation. A situation where MPs receive abuse and death threats is totally unacceptable.

    There is an urgent need for us to “disagree well”, as Justin Welby says, addressing both the church with its internal squabbles and disagreements and wider society with its divisions over Brexit.

    How best do we “disagree well” in the current situation? Please let me know what you think.

    Richard Frith – Bishop of Hereford.