This guest post was written by Rev Shuna Dicks of Aberlour Parish Church in Moray (who also blogs here). We’ll let Shuna introduce herself and her politics below but, for the benefit of doubt, the views expressed below are hers and not ours (especially the party affiliation!).

I am a Christian and I am a socialist. A minister in the Church of Scotland and a card carrying member of the Labour Party (and seriously considering expanding this by affiliating to the Co-operative Party). But which of these important values based sets has the greatest influence on the decisions I make? Which came first? Ideology or theology?

I am the product of a long and happy marriage of two Christian parents – one a socialist for all her life – the other a more recent convert to socialism after decades of liberal leanings. The recent in this is not post May 2010 BTW – more a post 1997 gradual swing.

I have been in and around the Church of Scotland all my life. My earliest political thought was during the 1979 referendum – when I was pro-devolution. At the grand old age of 10 I made my first political statement when tasked with marking the school playground with arrows pointing the way to the class room being used as a polling station. I added a few ‘yes’ and ‘no’s to the arrows – the final arrow having a yes above it! Can you imagine getting away with that these days? Another anecdote worth sharing is that at one time I had political aspirations and wanted to be on the Labour Party list of approved candidates for the first Scottish Parliamentary elections – my dad at that point suggested I give that up and go into the pulpit instead. Little did he or I know that a decade later that is exactly where I would be.

I do not know the answer to the question I posed in the title of this post. I am not even sure it is that important. But church and politics do collide. They can and do work together. And I believe the church does have something to say on how our country is governed and what the priorities should be. I wrote this pre-defence review announcement and pre-spending review – quite deliberately because I have the sinking feeling had I written this afterwards I would really not know where to begin. But I wrote this with the consultation document for possible/proposed cuts to be made to services by The Moray Council by my side. This document went with me to the meeting of Moray Presbytery’s Church and Community sub-committee, which I convene. We discussed it and (I hope) proposed some ‘deliverances’ to go before the next Presbytery meeting asking Kirk Sessions to fully engage with the consultation process – there are things in there that will greatly impact on the lives of our parishioners.

Despite what many people might think, the church still represents a significant number of people and in my induction to my parish I made vows to serve the whole parish not just those on the roll (i.e. members). The Church of Scotland still exercises a parish ministry – every part of Scotland is in a Church of Scotland parish. I take the parish seriously – I want to be involved in as much of it as I can. I am a member of the local Community Association in one of my villages and have attended the village council in the other; I am on the board of a community hall, a public park and soon a Parent Teacher Association. None of them compulsory for the local minister but for me key to playing a full role in my community and making me a better, more effective minister. I am also going represent the Presbytery on The Moray Council’s Children and Young People Committee. All of these involvements are politics with a small ‘p’ and all very local.

But should I mix politics with a big ‘P’ with my role as minister? Have I the right to use my pulpit for political purposes? No and I refuse to do so. That to me is an abuse of my position. I am happy to let my political affiliation be known (a quick Google of my name tells anyone that – a reminder of my failure to be elected as a local councillor!) but I will not make any party political pronouncements from the pulpit. I may comment on the impact of what we face this week – but only by way of illustrating its compatibility or not with what I think the Scriptures teach.

This is where both my ideology and theology collide: I believe in a loving God, who teaches justice and fairness through all of Scripture. I believe in Jesus Christ who taught us to love your neighbour as yourself.

And in the spirit of loving my neighbour I respect the right of others to disagree with me – whether that’s my faith or my politics.