A RETIRED Kidderminster priest has made a controversial decision to publicly endorse a political candidate in a General Election for the first time in her life.

Reverend Eva McIntyre, a retired Anglican priest who lives in Kidderminster, says she does not agree that the Church should not get involved in political life and believes she has a duty to speak out ahead of Thursday's vote.

Speaking to The Shuttle, Revd McIntyre said an increase in foodbank use, pressure on hospitals and a lack of funding for local schools means she "cannot sit by and say nothing", and so she has chosen to publicly endorse Labour candidate Robin Lunn.

She said: "I’ve never publicly endorsed a candidate in an election before, because clergy usually try to remain non-partisan in an attempt not to be seen as telling their congregations how to vote.

"However, we are living in extreme times and heading into unchartered territory in our political life.

"I cannot sit by and say nothing when sick and disabled people have been persecuted through the benefits system for a decade, and families are being driven to use food banks set up by a Christian charity, Trussell Trust, stocked, paid for and staffed by members of our community who are struggling themselves, and the government thinks this is fine.

"I think I have both a right and a duty to speak out."

Revd McIntyre and Mr Lunn served on the Church of England's Parliament together and she believes "we need someone of Robin’s calibre and integrity to speak for us in Wyre Forest".

She added: "Jesus was incredibly vocal on political matters in his day, and he prioritised the poor, sick, children and the stranger.

"We would do well to remember to put the same priorities into both our church teaching and our political allegiance.”

Wyre Forest Green candidate John Davis has supported Revd McIntyre's decision to speak out, saying "religious organisations have always sought to defend those most in need of support".

But rival political candidate, Liberal Democrat Shazu Miah, has criticised Revd McIntyre's decision.

Mr Miah said: "We find it deeply regrettable that Revd Eva McIntyre has chosen to breach the long standing position of members of the clergy publicly endorsing a party candidate at a General Election.

"We have a deeply divided nation with deep political splits which have not only divided communities but also families.

"With a General Election in the Christmas season the role of the clergy should be to seek to bring communities and families together and we deeply regret this divisive behaviour by a member of the clergy.”

Conservative candidate Mark Garnier said Revd McIntyre had been a Labour activist for a long time.