Archbishops under fire for 'implicitly endorsing' Tories in General Election letter

More than 100 church leaders are criticising the Archbishops general election letter as 'implicitly endorsing' the Tories.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York released their first major intervention on the election on Saturday with a three–page letter calling for 'cohesion, courage and stability' to heal deep divisions in the UK.

But dozens of clergy and other church leaders have signed an open response accusing the Archbishops of a 'deeply troubling' lean towards Theresa May's Conservatives.

The Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury are the two most senior Anglican leaders in the UK.Andrew Winning/Reuters

Focusing on the Archbishops' emphasis on 'stability' the response, penned by Rev Al Barrett, Birmingham, reads: 'It is impossible to escape the fact that the leader of one of the major political parties competing in this General Election has used the phrase "strong and stable" almost as a mantra throughout the election campaign thus far.

'For your pastoral letter to focus so positively on such a politically freighted word seems to us, at best, as a case of desperate political naivety, and at worst, an implicit endorsement of one party in this election.'

Barrett goes on to say the Archbishops' 'conflation of the deeply-contested discourses of "our Christian heritage" and "our shared British values"' was one made by far-right groups and causes concern.

'At this point in the history of the United Kingdom, politicians issuing calls to 'unite' risk concealing deep divisions under a banner of conformity, rather than addressing these divisions at their roots,' he writes.

'The emphases on stability and cohesion in your pastoral letter risk colluding with such dangerous political rhetoric.'

He goes on: 'At a time when the voices of the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the most marginalised are being ignored, silenced, even demonised, we want to respond to Benedict's call to obedience with our whole hearts, and listen most attentively to those voices, not in the centres of power, but in its margins.'

The Archbishops' intervention was the subject of fraught negotiations by C of E officials after a 52-page election letter from bishops in 2015 was seen as overtly critical of the Tories' welfare policies.

This time around the letter addresses immigration, housing, education, the economy and backs the commitment to spent 0.7 per cent of government income on foreign aid.

It will be read in churches and chaplaincies around the UK between now and the election and urges churchgoers to back a 'deeper concern for the weak, poor and marginalised, and for the common good' at the ballot box the Archbishop say 'education for all', 'solutions to our housing challenges' and a 'flourishing health service' are all crucial.

They say parties must look to build an 'outward looking and generous country, with distinctive contributions to peacebuilding, development, the environment and welcoming the stranger in need.'