This is something shared in my work context – obviously out of date now!
I thought it might help if I shared a little about what has led me to the place of standing for the Brexit Party as a potential MP. This will be in two parts – a bit about my own vocational journey, and a bit about my own fundamental values and beliefs.
When I was a teenager and through to my mid-20s I was intent on a political career, and I joined the Civil Service as a means of being trained for that – seeing government from the inside. However shortly before turning 25 I had my vocation experience when God made it clear that I was supposed to go into the church. After some painfully stubborn resistance I gave in to that call, and I have always believed that choice was final and irrevocable. However, over the last several months I have felt an increasing sense that God was revisiting that decision, and asking more from me. This has not been a comfortable process – I love my work in both parish and Diocese, and ____ and I have felt very settled in the Forest. I really do not want to disrupt that. However, I have learned that it is futile to fight God, however much our desires might run contrary to his.
I’ve spent a lot of time praying through the verse ‘Do you love me more than these?’ which Jesus asks of Peter on the beach. In the end I’ve had to say that, however much I love my congregation and my colleagues and my candidates, I do love Jesus more. (Apologies for how pious that sounds, it is meant sincerely!)
Yet even with all that, I can imagine the question being raised ‘OK, Sam, politics – but why the Brexit Party?!’ One of my core political passions is centred on social justice. I don’t believe that it is possible to be a Christian and not be concerned for social justice – although that still leaves lots of room for political disagreement about precisely how the desire for social justice is best pursued.
So how does that fit with supporting the Brexit Party?
I think I need to make two points. The first is simply: the Brexit Party is not UKIP version 2. I couldn’t support UKIP in its present form; indeed, the Brexit Party is going out of its way (and rightly) to ensure that it is inclusive, and that there is no prejudice on grounds of race, gender, religion, sexuality, handicap and so on. I have had to sign up to a four-page document promising to pursue the highest standards in public life, which I was very glad to do. If you look at the roster of candidates that have been announced you will see a lot of diversity – and that includes several people who voted Remain in 2016.
The second is that I believe the 2016 referendum allowed many people who were previously excluded from having a voice in our national life to speak up – and what has happened since then is that those in positions of power have sought to put those people ‘back in their box’. I know that this is something on which people of faith and good will can disagree, but, for me, this is a grave injustice. I want to ensure that this group of people – those who are generally poor and excluded in sharing in our common life – are listened to. I am ‘inspired by love and anger’ to quote one of my favourite hymns, by possibly my favourite hymn writer – and yes, I remain a committed Greenbelter, where I regularly listen to that hymn writer’s talks.
I believe that the technical question of Brexit will be resolved in the next year or two, but afterwards there will need to be a process of national reconciliation, wherein we learn to trust each other once again, and we heal the split between Leave and Remain. That is what I suspect I’m supposed to get involved with – and possibly not even as an MP, for I am well aware that following what I think is God’s will in this process gives no guarantee of ‘success’. My favourite prophet, Jeremiah, ended up failing, but he did God’s will in any case. I don’t have certainty that I’ll be elected, or that the Brexit Party will win, or even that Brexit is God’s will – all I know is that I am being called to stand up and speak out. That’s it.
In all of this, I would ask for your prayers, that God’s will be done, not just with me, but with our overall political situation.
With thanks for our fellowship in the faith,
Vicar of Parkend and Viney Hill
Associate DDO and Vocations Advisor Diocese of Gloucester