Will the new Archbishop of Canterbury stand up for the marginalised?
Following his much-publicised enthronement attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband, will the new Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Justin Welby stand up for people who are being marginalised in secular, post-Christian Britain?
The acid test will be Dr Welby's public statements and actions in support of the following people:
* Full-time mothers - looked down upon socially and increasingly being discriminated against financially.
* Public sector workers who wish to state their conviction that marriage should remain legally defined as the union of one man and one woman for life.
* People running small businesses - the key to economic recovery but over-burdened by regulations.
* Victims of crime on housing estates that the authorities have to all intents and purposes abandoned to drug-fuelled lawlessness.
* Christians who experience same-sex attraction but who wish to remain celibate for reasons of biblical conviction.
* Pupils at state schools who speak out against political correctness in its various forms.
* Former Muslims who are disowned or even persecuted by their families and communities because they convert to Christianity.
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* Female candidates for ordination in the Church of England who do not wish ever to become vicars because they believe on biblical grounds that such a role is for men.
* Adoptive or foster parents who refuse to express approval of sex outside heterosexual marriage.
This list is by no means exhaustive of all marginalised and vulnerable groups in British society about whom socially engaged Christians should be concerned. But they are people about whom the politically correct, metropolitan establishment in charge of the UK does not seem to care very much.
Nor are all the above people necessarily Christians. The leader of the national Church by law established should certainly have a heart for all kinds of people who suffer unjustly in society. But a Christian leader should surely have a special concern for Jesus' own flock.
In His parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew chapter 25, Jesus taught that the mark of the true Christian disciple is how he or she during their earthly life treated the people whom the Lord on his judgement throne termed 'the least of these'. The identity of such people becomes clear when the the parable of the sheep and goats is understood properly in the context of Matthew's Gospel.
At this point in Matthew's narrative, Jesus is preparing his disciples for faithful service in the world following his death, resurrection and ascension and before his final return. 'The least of these' are thus faithful Christians who are being persecuted because they belong to Jesus and are serving Him. Jesus identifies personally with such marginalised Christians: 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me' (Matthew 25v45 - NIV).
Those of us who belong to the Church of England need an Archbishop who will set us an example of Christ-like concern for the truly marginalised in British society. Active support for the people listed above will be an indication that our new Archbishop has the spiritual and moral courage to be prophetic and counter-cultural for Jesus and His people.