St Johns, Johnsonville and Holy Trinity, Ohariu
28 August 2014
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace to you.
With the approach of the General Election in Aotearoa New Zealand we write to encourage all Anglicans to exercise their rights and responsibilities as voters. The right to vote is key to our democracy. This democracy undergirds the freedom and prosperity so many of us enjoy.
This letter will not suggest who we should vote for. That Anglicans use their vote in support of a range of political parties is essential to our freedom in Christ and the health of our country. However; we do offer some principles – which we believe to be soundly rooted in scripture – which should guide our Christian thinking when assessing the policies offered this election.
The principles we offer are an adaption of the principles issued by the leaders of the mainline churches prior to the General Election in 1993. They were widely welcomed then and, we believe, remain relevant today. Though not exhaustive, they are comprehensive and enduring.
We will also identify four issues which we believe to be key challenges facing Aotearoa New Zealand as we reflect on the Gospel vision of the Kingdom of God. Background papers on each of these issues are available from the website link provided below.
We do not believe that the solutions to these challenges lie solely with the political process. They are a challenge to all New Zealanders and we are committed to our Church playing a greater role in addressing them.
Nevertheless, it is essential that these issues are in the policy mix of any government. Political activities are no more exempt from the moral teachings of the Gospels than any other form of human behaviour. It is important to remember that even budgets are moral documents.
1: Each person possesses a dignity that comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment.
The foundational human rights that protect this dignity include food and shelter, work, education and health care. Therefore, the test of any policy is whether it ensures that everyone – regardless of race, gender, age or economic status – has these needs met. This must be the first priority of any political system.
2: We are called into community.
People realise their full potential, both rights and responsibilities, in relationship with others. Our most treasured values are learned when we live in close and loving relationships with each other across standard social barriers.
A central test of both institutions and policies is what they do with people and how they enable people to contribute and participate.
Anything done to or for a group of people who are disconnected from the process is of enduring concern from a Gospel perspective.
Furthermore, in Aotearoa / New Zealand our institutions must take account of the special relationships between all our peoples brought into being by the Treaty of Waitangi.
3: All are called to work for the common good of society.
Individuals and groups have an obligation to pursue not only their own interests but the good of all. This is no more or less than an application of the second commandment: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 12:31).
4: Work is more than a way to make a living. It is participation in God’s creation.
The unpaid contribution of voluntary workers, home makers, people with disabilities, the elderly and others, is of equal value to the contribution made by those in paid employment. No policy should disadvantage or stigmatise those contributing to the well-being of society in ways that do not earn wages.
However, people have the right to decent and productive employment, and to fair wages and working conditions. Paid workers are not impersonal instruments of production. In any economic order based on justice, human labour takes priority over capital and technology.
5: We are stewards rather than owners of God’s creation.
All economic activity must be an out-working of a commitment to ensure the sustainability of creation. Our use of the resources of creation is to be in such a manner that we enhance the inheritance that we pass on to our children and grandchildren. In living out this principle we are aware of the delicate global interdependence between ecosystems and humanity.
6: The Gospels show a preferential concern for the poor and vulnerable.
This is in recognition of the powerlessness that often comes with poverty and vulnerability. The poor must be a major focus of social policy. A basic moral test of any society is how its most vulnerable members are faring. This is not a new insight. It is the lesson of the parable of the Last Judgement (cf Matthew 25). To reject the “option for the poor” is to imitate Dives, the rich man who ignored Lazarus, the beggar lying at his gate.
The task which faces us all is to support and endorse policies which are consistent with gospel vision and values, and to challenge those which do not. We look for policies that promote human dignity, stress rights and responsibilities, emphasise the value of work and creativity, protect and care for the creation, and express human compassion.
1: Child poverty
Many New Zealand children lack access to warm homes and nourishing food and are at greater risk of abuse than in many other countries with similar levels of economic wellbeing. Our lack of official child poverty measures, reduction targets, and consistent reporting of progress is of urgent concern.
2: Income inequality
High income inequality breaks down the social fabric of society. It erodes trust and reduces social mobility. Inequality is a relational rather than a quantity problem.
3: Lack of affordable and accessible housing
Housing affordability is closely aligned with the challenges of poverty and inequality. Unhealthy, overpriced, substandard housing is a reality for an unacceptable proportion of our society. Significant health problems such as rheumatic fever are one of the results of poor housing.
4: Global Warming
The environmental impact of global warming on the island nations of the Pacific is significant. We are already seeing, in the face of rising sea levels, the relocation of whole communities. Urgent action is required and, as yet, not being seen.
We call on every individual Anglican and on our congregations to pray for all those who are standing for election and for their families. The commitment that this represents to our community wellbeing is something we should celebrate and be grateful for.
Yours in Christ’s service,
Archbishop Winston Halapua
Bishop for the Diocese of Polynesia in Aotearoa New Zealand
Archbishop Philip Richardson
Senior Bishop of New Zealand Dioceses
Archbishop Brown Turei
Bishop of Aotearoa
For Background Papers, see: