Sunday, March 4, 2012

Politics, Prayer and the Pulpit

Yesterday was the first time I can remember that I have seriously considered walking out of a church mid service because of a preacher. It wasn't because she chose 'Shine Jesus Shine' (which she didn't) as someone suggested, or the 10 point sermon mainly on the architecture of Noah's ark (which we did get). It was over the prayers of intercession.

Now I've come across the age old 'using-the-prayers-of-intercession-as-a-chance-to-gossip-about-the-people-we-are-praying-for' issue before, and that annoyed me, but this was a whole new level. The local preacher, who isn't from our church, prayed for (and this is a paraphrase as I can't remember the exact words) 'David Cameron to change his mind over his support for the evil marriage bill'.  Yep, you read that right.
I don't really want to get into a debate about the Equal Marriage issue, though I'm happy to say that I support the idea of gay marriage. My issue is over politics, prayer and the pulpit.

I would never want the church to shy away from politics. The church has a powerful role to play on social issues. Put I do have an issue of preachers using the pulpit, let alone group prayers, to push a personal political agenda, without consideration or sensitivity. During the 2010 election campaigns, both my Church Ministers (Home and Uni) stressed that they were not going to tell people how to vote, or try and influence them, as that would be an abuse of power. But yesterday, I heard a local preacher ask God, on behalf of the Church, to turn a politician against a controversial issue. I respect her right to her opinion, though I disagree with her, but prayer is not the time to make comments like that.

As I mentioned, she is not from our church. She wasn't to know if there was any homosexual people in the congregation. She didn't know the situations, beliefs and views of the people sat in the pews. I have been attending this church since I was little more than a twinkle in my father's eye, and I don't know the situations and beliefs of most. I had been sat next to a visiting couple (before I had to dart to the back to play with the PA controls), and I was so worried about what their first impression of our church would be. I spend a lot of time trying to fight against the stereotypical view of Christians, and then it happens from the pulpit of my own church.

I'm going to wrap this up fairly soon, as I realise this is turning into more of a rant than anything else, and i don't want this to be read as a personal attack on the preacher in question. But the point was that I'm calling for preachers - no, actually all Christians - to act with compassion, sensitivity and common sense when discussing issues that are close to the hearts of many. And prayer is never the time!

On a lighter note, here are two bands that you should check out on SoundCloud. People Saw Us are a York based band, the drummer being a friend of mine. And Dennis is a band of the sister of another friend. Both their stuff is worth a listen.

PS: technically my church doesn't have a pulpit, we use a lecturn. But I liked the alliteration of 'Politics, Prayer and the Pulpit'

PPS: I'd like to email the Local Preacher to outline my concerns, but currently can't find her email address.


  1. hey hey, good post - genuinely appalled by the prayers!

    2 comments to make.

    1) As a LP on Trial, and someone with political views I try very hard to make sure my persuasions don't affect my sermon (or indeed prayers) too much. Invariably I come across as a bit progressive, but hopefully all that I do can be meaningful worship for those of a more right-wing leaning too. At times I have been criticised for being too cautious, but I'd rather that than anything else.

    2) I know it is a pipe dream, but actually I think the *local* Preachers in our Circuits should know the sensitivities of their congregations. Not necessarily everyone's sexual orientation (and that is irrelevant, in that the prayer should NEVER be offered like that) but preaching is at its best when the preacher knows the congregation, and has an understanding of them. This, of course, takes time and effort, but hopefully should grow. F&W stresses having the particular Congregation you're preaching to in mind, and I think it is vital so less of the defeatism of para 4! :P

    PS - if you can't get the preacher's E-mail address then you can contact the LP Secretary who can address the issue with them

    Paul P

  2. Just be glad you're not American (or Iranian...), the sheer amount of Religio-politics there is enough to turn anyone ginger