Church members share concern about government social policies

By staff writers
January 3, 2009

Leading members of the Church of England share the concern of five Anglican bishops about the impact of government economic and social policies on the most vulnerable, a new Sunday newspaper survey claims.

A significant majority of General Synod members questioned by the Sunday Telegraph said that the bishops were right to speak out recently.

The paper says it questioned 71 members of the 467-strong Synod, one in seven of the total. Of those surveyed, 86 per cent said the bishops had been "right to criticise the Government at this particular time".

Nearly half, 48 per cent, said it was time for a change of government, while 45 per cent agreed with David Cameron's claim that Britain is a "broken" society.

Writing in same newspaper, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, says that the bishops were justified in condemning the Prime Minister's approach to "buying his way out of the recession".

There was also disagreement with the bishops in the survey, however. Around a third of those questioned agreed with the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, who called the government's economic strategy "morally corrupt", while almost half disagreed.

Bishop McCulloch said: "The Government believes that money can answer all of the problems and has encouraged greed and a love of money that the Bible says is the root of all evil. It's morally corrupt because it encourages people to get into a lifestyle of believing they can always get what they want."

The bishops of Manchester, Durham, Hulme, Manchester and Carlisle declared a week ago that Britain is beset by family breakdown, debt and poverty.

Half of the Synod said that support for the family has worsened under Labour, whereas only 27 per cent said it had improved.

However, there is some suspicion that the bishops are being encouraged in their criticism by senior Tories, given that several of them are known to take a more conservative stance on family and other issues.

"It is important to subject all the parties' policies to critical investigation in terms of their impact on the poorest," a Christian social scientist told Ekklesia. "The present government has allowed the divisions of wealth and power in society to get worse - but the idea that the opposition would do anything different while there is a suffocating cross-party consensus around market economics is a fantasy."

Canon Emeritus Paul Oestreicher from Coventry Cathedral has accused the bishops of making weak criticisms too late, without investing in radical alternative economic policies.

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