The Church of England must continue to influence important national debates and not be deterred by attempts to marginalise Christianity, the Archbishop of York has warned.
Addressing the General Synod earlier this week Dr John Sentamu insisted that the Church should “actively continue to seek to influence the terms of the national debate on key issues affecting our society.
“I do not accept the arguments of those who try to confine the church to purely private matters; who say that Christian convictions should have no place in questions of public morality.”
The Archbishop’s comments are likely to be welcomed by many Christians who have become increasingly concerned at attempts to sideline their faith from public life.
But he warned: “As we try to re-articulate, in today’s circumstances, how the moral order should be reflected in the compact underlying our society, we cannot expect to be universally welcomed or applauded.
“But to do these things is, quite simply, our God-given duty and our particular calling.”
The Archbishop also dismissed any attempt to drive a wedge between religion and morality as false.
He said: “It is false because morality is or should be increasingly a matter of public concern and not just a private matter.
“It is false because societies in which religious belief is weakened are weaker societies.
“It is false because, unless informed by a conception of the Divine, moral principles are always in danger of fading away into moral relativism.”
Recently a number of UK Christians have suffered for standing up for their faith.
Last month the Christian owners of a Cornish guesthouse who restrict double rooms to married couples were ordered to pay £3,600 in damages to a homosexual couple.
Discussing the case on Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, Michael Portillo expressed concern over the emergence of a “secular theocracy” saying: “I’m not on the receiving end of this at the moment at all because I’m not a religious person.
“But I can easily conceive of how I could be on the receiving end of some future legislation.”
Co-panelist Claire Fox, a secular humanist and director of the Institute of Ideas, also expressed concerns over the erosion of liberty.
Referring to comments made by one of the show’s guests she said: “I thought it was hilarious when our first witness kind of said well, you know they’re allowed to have those views but they’re not allowed to do anything with them.
“I mean it basically makes a mockery of religion if that’s the case; it’d be kind of religion-lite.”