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True Freedom

Dear friends

One of our great Archbishops of Canterbury was William Temple. Sadly he died relatively young during World War II.

Servant Leader

He was a “servant leader“. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes, and also publicly, to influence, make connections between people and bring Christian insight, not least to government.

The Welfare State

In 1928, he coined the term “welfare state“ -  as compared to the “power state“ by which he meant states which coerced citizens for their own ends.

He believed in freedom. But he had a Christian perspective. Freedom is not simply “freedom from“ (about which we hear much). “Freedom from” means the absence of coercion. But on its own, “freedom from” brings the danger of people being trampled on by the more powerful.

True Freedom

Christian freedom means “freedom to”. Believing the words of Jesus who said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free“, Temple sought to empower (to use a popular word of today). 

Archbishop Temple worked for a “welfare state”, seeking the welfare of all, through, for example, good health, good education and sufficient income. True freedom means growing as a person in body, mind and spirit. It is a person’s welfare that most of all contributes to freedom.

William Temple and the Welfare State

Temple’s influence was probably key to the birth of our modern education system and the NHS in the years immediately following the Second World War.

Remembering that freedom means “freedom to“ is key today. We hear much about “freedom from”. But Christians will be more interested in “freedom to”, which of course brings with it “freedom from” as well.

It is not a bad rule of thumb in making moral decisions in Christ to ask, “Will this action help empower others as part of our community”. This could be helpful for Christians in making some of the difficult decisions eg whether to strike. It is not a case of “everyone for themselves”. No one is an island.

Exercising freedom

Let us ask, what is for the welfare of all. So for example this means not only patients but also other staff and the longer-term resilience of the NHS. These things need to be weighed carefully and prayerfully.

Let us work for the true freedom of all, following Christ who invites us all into eternal freedom.

Love, Martin



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