The Archbishop of York today gave the keynote address ‘Christian Citizenship Today’ at the Citizenship, Covenant and Christ Conference at Belfast City Hall.
The Archbishop explained: “Any understanding of Christian citizenship must take into account that we are citizens of Christ’s Kingdom. We belong to Christ and we owe our loyalty to Him. Yet if we are tempted to conclude that this releases us from obligations as human citizens of a modern state, we need to think again.”
“Christian citizenship today involves being willing to participate at every level in the societies in which we are based whilst holding fast to the values of Christ’s Kingdom. It is integral to Christian discipleship.”
“At a national level, Christian public engagement with politics will involve what I call ‘critical solidarity’. This means that the Church stands in solidarity with those who are its elected representatives. However, it is a critical solidarity because it is unafraid to ask difficult questions when necessary to maintain a vision of what the world could be if God’s call to humanity is taken seriously.”
The Archbishop also reflected on the need to put God back at the centre of our thinking and the importance of volunteering. He said: “Whilst some churches and church leaders will fulfil a national role in this capacity, every Christian is called to be an active citizen, seeking to contribute to the building of policies and structures in which all people may flourish. This involves not just voting in elections, but being willing to play a direct part in helping build communities which work.”
“More people volunteer their time to projects, groups and initiatives run by the church in local communities than any other single organisation in our country”.
The Archbishop also raised concerns about barriers to the development of mutual flourishing in our societies and the negative term of tolerance. Dr Sentamu said: “A distressing and evil aspect of our political and civic life today is that so many people feel excluded. We need to understand the reasons for this sense of exclusion otherwise we cannot hope, as Christian citizens, to build societies that are safe, generous and magnanimous. The implications of exclusion, whether it is actual or perceived, can have terrible consequences.”
Closing his address, the Archbishop explained: “We are still in the glorious season of Eastertide in which we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death by the Cross and his resurrection. This is the most important image for us to hold onto. For it is in the transforming love of Christ that we are given a sign of how we too may change and be agents of change in our communities”.
Following his address the Archbishop joined a Question Time Panel with Deputy Dara Calleary TD, Cllr Tom Hartley SF, Philip Orr, Nelson McCausland MLA and Minister of State, Hugo Swire. The Conference programme was organised by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
For more information, please contact the Archbishop of York’s Director of Communication, Mr Kerron Cross, on 01904 772 364 or 07738 354 491 or at email@example.com