Monday, May 27, 2013

Church Army Chief Exec in bid to oust Nick Clegg

From Brother Ivo:

Brother Ivo finds himself somewhat conflicted at the news that the Chief Executive of the Church Army, Mark Russell, is currently seeking the nomination as Labour Party Candidate for the Sheffield Hallam constituency, currently held by Nick Clegg.

Leaving aside all political considerations, Labour would be hard pressed to find a more suitable contender against a sitting MP with such a high national profile, and the kind of relaxed debating style which saw him win so many votes for the Liberal Democrats as a result of the leadership debates in 2010. Nick Clegg has his detractors and has made many mistakes, but one should not underestimate the scale of the task in trying to unseat an MP with a 15,000 majority. Furthermore, the UKIP wild card is at work, and considerable uncertainty may still be injected into every constituency race.

If anyone is built to unsettle such an incumbent, it is the charismatic Ulsterman, but his immediate election prospects are not primarily Brother Ivo’s concern. Even a good showing in Sheffield might increase Mark Russell’s prospects of securing a more winnable seat, and he has indicated that if elected he would stand down from his position of leading one of the Church of England’s primary evangelical and pastoral organisations.

He was appointed Chief Executive at the remarkably young age of 31. His profile on the Church Army’s website shows a man who has risen swiftly and secured the respect of both Rowan Williams, who appointed him as the youngest member of the Archbishops Council, and John Sentamu who said of him: "He has an infectious love for Jesus Christ and a refreshing commitment to evangelism that the church needs right now!"

It is that need which troubles Brother Ivo.

Having heard Mark Russell preach on various occasions, there is no doubt that he is an effective Christian communicator - quick, passionate, self deprecatory and unafraid to preach of Christ crucified: he touches young and old with the relevance of the Gospel message. You may see a little for yourself in the video link HERE and HERE.

It was partly as a result of Mark Russell’s influence that Brother Ivo’s own Church moved from the model of passive waiting for a congregation to show up, to one of actively reaching out; one of finding ways of 'making them come in' through a variety of strategies that broke down the reluctance of many who fear disapproval and therefore never think to set foot in such a place.

The advertising of Mark Russell as a speaker at an event ensures a good attendance, and those who have heard him preach and teach frequently tell their friends: “Come and hear." The Church needs such motivators, but so does Parliament, hence Brother Ivo’s ambivalence.

Although politically opposed to the party he seeks to represent, the arrival in the House of a no-nonsense Christian who is unafraid to speak of the Good News is an exciting prospect. Even where we might disagree on the answers, his recent work experience puts him in touch with the problems of those whom Jesus calls us to serve, and Mark could certainly be trusted to ask pertinent questions.

However, just as Mark was warned by David Hope that the bureaucracy of the Church would dull his edge, so might the Palace of Westminster. Parliament does have a number of Christians, but too many of them hide their lights under a bushel instead of standing tall and proud so that they might associate their public service and responsibility with the faith that underpins their core beliefs.

Much that Brother Ivo has seen suggests that one with a strong Church Army background would set a good example, and yet..

How often do we find our Members of Parliament sucked into the mire of the 'talking point' or following the 'party line' and the various persuasions of the Whips Office?

Mark Russell speaks in his Church Army video of David Hope interviewing him and warning that the Church of England might well drain him of his youthful enthusiasm. How much more must we fear for any Christian being reduced by the party machines once they enter Parliament!

On the one hand, a plain witness for Christ is much needed amongst our political leaders, and Mark has the capacity to shake others out of their reticence. But, on the other hand, the risk of losing his dynamism from the Church is a tough one to contemplate, particularly if he is dragged into the game of party politics. He would not be the first.

We cannot tell at this stage how this might end, and perhaps the best we can do is to place Mark before God in prayer so that he might use his undoubted talents in the way best suited to God’s plan.

Mark has used a very good closing encouragement to audiences that Moses was a stammerer, David an adulterer, Peter a coward, Thomas a doubter and Paul a persecutor, yet all ended up being of service God.

Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him into Jerusalem with the words: "The Lord has need." This secured His purpose. So Brother Ivo will comfort himself with the thought that if the Lord can make good use of a humble donkey, He will surely not make an exception of a potential Labour Party candidate.

(Posted by Brother Ivo)


Blogger Irene's Daughter said...

What a contest though. Just imagine the debates on the hustings. Faithful servant of the Almighty v servant of secular humanism. God will win the argument every time.

We serve a God who is bringing His judgment on us now. But He is also a God who hears our prayers and our prayer echos that of Habakkuk as the Israelites faced judgment for turning away. 'Lord, in Your wrath, remember Mercy.' And it is His nature to be merciful.

Will He put Mark Russell into Parliament as a means to show mercy to those who walk the corridors of power? His prophet in the courts of these secular 'kings'.

Only time will tell.

27 May 2013 at 12:01  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

hmmm. Clegg is such an odious piece of whatever, it’s damn hard to believe anyone would vote for him. If Russell can get that across, he may well do it...

27 May 2013 at 12:15  
Blogger Julia Gasper said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

27 May 2013 at 12:46  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Brother Ivo,
Mark is very bold to put himself up as a candidate against Clegg. Even though Clegg stands as a most odious opponent of the Gospel, it seems like a lost cause. Why do preachers choose the Labour party as the party of Choice?
My view of achieving a righteous Government is that first we need a revival amongst the people. They might then vote for the better man.
Ivo, you are so right that in the corridors of power, the party system stifles Christian beliefs. This has been made evident by the opposition of SSM being significantly less than half.

27 May 2013 at 13:58  
Blogger Nick said...

Parliament OK. But why the Labour party?

Is this some naieve notion that Labour party cares about ordinay people? It doesn't. As to Christians, it is probably more theophobic than the others, except UKIP.

I fear we may be throwing Pearls to the pigs

27 May 2013 at 14:02  
Blogger Owl said...

Considering the destruction Labour has bent of the UK in the last cople of decades, it is difficult to understand how any Christian could even contemplate associating with them.

As the stated intentions of said party include all that is wrong with our society, it is clear that this man will have his platform taken from under his feet no matter how well intentioned he is.

Mark is also somewhat progrssive in outlook, i.e. possibly another "heir to Blair".

27 May 2013 at 14:03  
Blogger Nick said...

Sorry. I meant that UKIP is not theophobic like the others.

27 May 2013 at 14:30  
Blogger Albert said...

I agree with Nick (as they say). It would be good to have Mr Russell in Parliament, and he would be a good replacement for Mr Clegg. But how can any Christian belong to the Labour Party? I was under the impression they are pro-abortion and pro-gay 'marriage'. Or does the fact that one has a position of high authority in the CofE not automatically indicate that person is opposed to such things?

27 May 2013 at 15:36  
Blogger Berserker said...

Mark Russell is or was a Methodist. Primitive Methodists were where a lot of our early Union leaders came from but then there had not been over a hundred years of watching successive labour Governments ruin the country.

He could win. after all the Lib Dems lost five seats from their 2005 results even after Clegg put in by far the best showing in the 2010 TV party leader debates. And before the early 90's it used to be a Conservative seat.

If UKIP take votes from the LibDems and Conservatives maybe that would let in Labour for the first time.

27 May 2013 at 16:03  
Blogger non mouse said...

Like others here - I have trouble in seeing the compatibility between Christianity and modern Labour politics.

Well ... make that liblabcon politics. Even disregarding labels, I don't understand what otherwise sensible Sheffielders see in alien Nicky boy.

We need to get off the political roller-coaster/Big Dipper. It's rattled us about for too long, and our country isn't just one big fairground.

27 May 2013 at 17:54  
Blogger Nick said...


I agree we should get off the political roller-coaster. It is not just about the 3 main parties (if the LimpDems can still be called "main"). It is about the whole political mindset, the slavish unthinking obediaence to the equality god, and the irrational fear of cutting the EU apron strings and being a grown-up nation again. It is the politics of cowardice.

As a Christian I inevitably come at it rom that angle, though for many years I put up with successive atheistic governments with just a little whinging on my part. Now I am livid at what the Cameron / Clegg duopoly are doing to this country.

The fairground is a good anaolgy with plenty of clowns in the Westminster theme park

27 May 2013 at 18:07  
Blogger Peter D said...

No Christian would support the current Labour Party whilst it remains pro-murder of unborn children and pro-homosexual 'marriage'.

So how Christians put themselves forward MP and accept the whip on such issues?

27 May 2013 at 18:09  
Blogger Waywalker said...

A very interesting post Brother Ivo and an interesting choice come an election. Obviously a passionate evangelist he reminds me a little of Steve Chalke and also mentions Rob Bell. I have grown rather wary of these big evangelical characters that get lifted up and where they may lead.

I would want to know a lot more about his politics before I voted and will be interest to see what other candidates emerge to fight Clegg and where the lines of the debate will fall.

27 May 2013 at 18:10  
Blogger Peter D said...


So how could Christians put themselves forward for election as a Labour MP and if successful accept the Party whip on such issues?

27 May 2013 at 18:11  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

You won’t find modern Labour ideas in the bible, but you will in ‘Das Kapital’

27 May 2013 at 18:12  
Blogger michael north said...

Is there anything more contemptible than a lefty Christian?

27 May 2013 at 18:35  
Blogger Albert said...

Interesting point about the whip, Peter D. There's only one party line I would accept, and it is Roman. And even then, in the practical and political application of Church teaching, one has to weigh actual pronouncements from the Holy Father in the light of one's own conscience. So the whole party whip thing seems itself, thoroughly idolatrous.

27 May 2013 at 19:25  
Blogger michael north said...

My post @ 18.35

Delete "contemptible", insert "fatuous".

27 May 2013 at 19:26  
Blogger Peter D said...

Michael North

I can think of circumstances where I'd be inclined to vote Labour to ensure some form of preferential treatment of the poor in future policies. It would depend on circumstances, of course.

However, in Britain at this time, I believe one must first consider the Labour Party's stance on pro-life issues (abortion and assisted murder) and heterosexual marriage. Its no good being well fed (temporarily) in a morally bankrupt nation heading towards a crisis.

27 May 2013 at 19:52  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D. Ah yes, the so called “poor” in the UK.

If mankind was able to generate his own wealth by selling his effluent, there would still be street beggars claiming to have been born without an arsehole.

That’s the “poor” for you. We have had are armed services cut to the bone to service the “poor”, or hadn’t you noticed ?

27 May 2013 at 21:15  
Blogger Peter D said...


Your love and understanding for mankind knows no bounds.

27 May 2013 at 21:45  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

It certainly doesn’t Stanley...

27 May 2013 at 22:56  
Blogger richardhj said...

I agree with many of you that I find it difficult to see how a Christian could possibly support the Labour Party.

But then on the other hand, would you join the party of Clegg or Dave's fascist liberal party? I am reluctant to join UKIP either although will almost certainly vote for them.

If he is good on pro-life issues, pretend marriage etc., then I no longer care what party he joins, and I hope he gets elected, especially against Clegg

If he isn't then he will be worse than Clegg. I would rather be able to see who my opponents are than have someone who pretends to be on my side and is actually against. Between Blair who says he is a Christian and Cameron who says he is a Conservative, I have seen enough dishonesty in leaders for many lifetimes.

28 May 2013 at 11:33  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

I have met Mark several times and am very impressed with his passion for people and seeing them come to faith in Christ. I too, as Brother Ivo, have even touched by his preaching and believe his leaving the Church Army would be a big loss to the CofE.
That said, I am not convinced of how Mark would fare in the political world. In the big political theme of recent years in the CofE, women bishops, he has not just been in favour of women bishops (something I agree with) but has expressed a disinclination towards suitable provision for those against (something I am very much against). I have yet to hear his views on marriage but fear that he may well end up towing the party line in that regard, at least in terms of secular equality. I would love to be proved wrong in this, but with the recent spate of evangelicals (Bishop James Jones, Steve Chalke and Rob Bell being the most high profile) coming out in favour of gay marriage it is no longer good enough to have the tag "evangelical" to be known for what you stand.

29 May 2013 at 09:30  
Blogger Albert said...


he has not just been in favour of women bishops (something I agree with) but has expressed a disinclination towards suitable provision for those against (something I am very much against).

Ah, his position in the Labour Party suddenly makes sense! And yes, with that kind of intolerance about him, he is likely to favour gay 'marriage'.

29 May 2013 at 10:41  

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