Today is the day that Jesus enters the constitutional debate.
At 43 High Street, Edinburgh, at 10.30am. Walk by that address at approximately that time and you will hear the strains of Amazing Grace played by a lone piper on the steps of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Look inside and you'll discover the launch of the latest group backing a Yes vote in September's referendum: Christians for Independence.
The choice of tune is quite deliberate. It was written in 1772 by former slave-trader turned evangelical Anglican cleric John Newton. It was Newton who instructed the young William Wilberforce not to quit politics but, instead, to "serve God where he was" in Parliament. The result was many decades of prayer and perseverance on the part of Wilberforce, concluding in the abolition of slavery in 1833. Christianity did not create slavery but it did end it.
Throughout the long history of Scotland, the benign influence of Christianity similarly shaped a political culture that strove to educate the young, care for the sick, nurse the dying, feed the homeless and give hope to the hopeless.
As it was then, so it is now. Christians still play a hugely significant and overwhelmingly positive role in contemporary Scotland. Over 50% of Scots describe themselves as Christian. More than 500,000 go to church on a Sunday. More than 2500 church communities are to be found across the country. In many of our more deprived areas, it is the churches that provide essential care for the most vulnerable. In every locality, it is often church members who are the most active participants within grassroots civil society: credit unions, housing associations, food banks, youth groups, community councils and more.
It is therefore imperative that anybody seeking to propose a new constitutional settlement for Scotland engages in a serious and respectful way with our churches.
That is why I am delighted to announce Christians for Independence will this morning be unveiling a new initiative entitled Faith in Scotland's Future. Made possible by a generous donation from Sir Brian Souter, the project will be aimed at listening to Scotland's churches in the run-up to September's referendum. We want to hear the hopes, fears and queries Scotland's Christians have about independence.
The unifying vision that will underpin such discussion is quite clear: Jesus Christ's "golden rule" of loving our neighbour as we love ourselves. In the Gospel of Matthew, He gives us a further challenge; when I was hungry did you give me food? When I was thirsty did you give me drink? When I was a stranger did you welcome me? When I was naked did you clothe me? When I was sick did you visit me? When I was in prison did you come to me?
It is the firm proposition of Christians for Independence that a vote for self-governance in September's referendum gives Scottish Christians the best platform upon which to work collaboratively with others to build a more socially just society at home and abroad.
And what about those hot-button moral topics such as same-sex marriage, I hear you ask? Well, as an umbrella group, Christians for Independence recognizes that on a range of ethical issues individual Christians and individual churches come to different conclusions. Therefore we have no fixed policy on such matters.
We do aspire, however, to facilitate dialogue between churches and the political classes on these key issues. Why? Because it seems obvious that in recent years many in the churches have felt they are not being listened to by politicians. That applies to all parties and is not a good situation.
Christianity is a constructive, constituent part of Scotland's past, present and future. An inclusive approach to constitutional change that fully involves the churches is the surest route to creating a civilization of love that has the dignity of the person as a founding principle. That is the clear mission of Christians for Independence. Let the conversation begin.
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