Gordon Brown does God and global justice at St Paul's Cathedral

By staff writers
April 1, 2009

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has told faith leaders and representatives of NGOs that the world must adopt global economic rules based on common values.

During a speech at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, ahead of this week's G20 summit, Brown said world leaders need to make decisions that will shape the global economy in the interests of everybody.

He said the new rules need to be based on the same principles that apply to families, neighbourhoods and communities: “Shared global rules founded on shared global values.”

The meeting was chaired by the Anglican Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres. The other keynote speaker was Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is also a Christian.

Mr Brown told the audience that G20 leaders must to join together to fight global recession, climate chaos, and unemployment, insecurity, poverty and hopelessness.

“Instead of a global free market threatening to descend into a global free for all, we must reshape our global economic system so that it respects the values we celebrate in our everyday lives.”

Mr Brown added that world leaders must not forget their obligations to the poor when agreeing the economic solutions for the future.

“I believe that both markets and governments have a responsibility to serve the public interest, that the poor are our shared responsibility and that wealth carries unique responsibilities too,” he declared.

Issues about Mr Brown's own outlook were also addressed at and around the packed meeting in St Paul's.

"I would not describe him as a regular churchgoer," a spokesperson for the PM's office told Westminster reporters.

"His approach to politics and public life are driven by the values which he holds and, as he was saying in his speech today, the values that he holds are values that are shared across many religions."

He confirmed that Mr Brown had told a newspaper shortly before his election that he believes in God.

The comments came after the PM and his Australian counterpart were asked at St Paul's whether "doing God" was important to developing shared global values.

The questioner echoed the phrase "We don't do God" famously coined by Tony Blair's former press chief Alastair Campbell in a bid to stop his boss straying into controversial territory.

Kevin Rudd, however, did not need Brown to explain the reference, saying: "I had a chat with Alastair Campbell the other night ... It is far better to name the spirits who are among us."

In reference to his own faith, Mr Rudd described himself as "a garden-variety Christian of no fixed denominational abode". He has written and lectured on the anti-Nazi pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The Australian premier added: "I think the key thing is that whatever your faith tradition, that to the greatest extent that you can, that you not only own it but you reflect it in that which you seek to do.

"Always recognising, I think, the injunction of St Paul that we all fall short of the glory of God and that those of us in the political process certainly do so."

Rudd handed the floor to Brown, with the words: "Off you go, mate, give us a more saintly version."

Brown was less direct in his handling of the question, describing his upbringing in the Church of Scotland and his father, who was a minister. He then joked about a minister who would not reveal which way he voted to his congregation but chose his hymns carefully after elections.

"I think politicians have got to be very careful that they don't turn out to try to be bishops," the Prime Minister said.

He had earlier responded to a letter from Pope Benedict calling on him and other world leaders establish ethical and financial systems that create security for workers and families.

Mr Brown echoed the pontiff's concerns and also referred directly to his letter in the debate at St Paul’s Cathedral.

He said that he understood the pain of ordinary people affected by the current recession, and that he recognised the anxieties felt by families about their jobs, mortgages and futures.

The Prime Minister also reiterated a phrase he has used around the world over the past six months - that "markets should be free, but never free of values."

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