Anglican politicians in Wales and the former Australian Reserve Bank governor have been explaining the role of faith in public life. The ruling Labour Party’s Ann Jones, the Deputy Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales; and opposition Conservative member of the Assembly, Darren Millar, made their comments in the Diocese of St Asaph’s magazine, Teulu Asaph. While in Australia, the former Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens, a Baptist, told an audience as he collected the Faith & Work award for 2018 how he had been “scarred” by ridicule of his faith.
The Faith & Work award is jointly presented by Anglican-evangelical Ridley College in Melbourne; Ethos, the Evangelical Alliance Centre for Christianity and Society; and the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy at the University of Divinity. At a dinner earlier this month at which he was presented with the award, Stevens told the audience that he had been intensely criticised for raising interest rates during 2008, a period which coincided with a speech he gave about faith and work at an Easter function at Wesley Mission in Sydney.
“One reporter from a TV network stuck a microphone in my face as I was leaving and asked how it was Christian to raise people’s home loan rates,” he said. “One news organisation wrote up [my speech] as ‘Stevens claims God-given gift to steer the economy’.
“In addition I had quite a number of very unkind letters and emails, saying how foolish I was to believe the things I had said, and what a disgrace it was that the Governor of the Reserve Bank could say and even think such things.
“These people clearly felt I was unfit to hold the job. The anger in those messages was greater than anything else I received in all the years I worked in the Reserve Bank.”
But despite the criticism, Stevens, a member of Heathcote Engadine Baptist Church in southern Sydney, said that his faith had “grounded” him during critical life moments. ““Faith sustained me,” he said. “I felt that the grounding was helped by continued participation in the life of our local church, where we have been attending since 1987.”
He described himself as “an ordinary church member, including being on the church cleaning roster and vacuuming the sanctuary. It’s actually good to stay grounded”.
He praised the support of his pastor, Ian Wooley, “who had the sensitivity not to make additional demands on me”. “A lot of people prayed for me. I often struggled with the feeling that I wasn’t good enough to do the job, that I was facing problems I didn’t know how to solve.
“There are, perhaps for all of us, moments when so many things seem to be going crazy that our inner faith is all we have to sustain us.”
Meanwhile, in a column for Teulu Asaph, Ann Jones said that “the teachings of the living gospel that I aspire to uphold, have shaped and continue to shape my thinking and hopefully my actions throughout my role in public life. In fact, it was the message coming from the gospel that inspired me to look to stand for public office. . .
“I believe it is my responsibility to shout up and out about the inequalities that we face in society whether it is about the increasing numbers of families relying on food banks, homelessness, domestic violence or the rights of everyone to be treated with dignity and respect.
“I hope my faith will then show through by my actions and my actions will benefit people of all faiths and none alike.”
Darren Millar described his role as a member of the National Assembly for Wales as “a vocation that steps beyond just the political” and said that he had come to view it as missional.
“No area of society or culture is off limits . . . but I know of very few who intentionally view public service, for example, as a mission field,” he said. “I would love to see churches work at redressing the balance. . . If the big picture remains too challenging for some, my desire would be to at least see churches motivating their congregation to pray, encourage, and support those people of faith currently serving in the public sphere.”
Also writing in the magazine, the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, said that “most of the work of the Church is done by Christians who take decisive action on behalf of the well-being of others through channels which aren’t particularly Church – by engagement with charities, schools and associations that aren’t necessarily remotely Christian in their foundation.
“There are a thousand ways in which we may serve, and God lays on each of our hearts different concerns.”