ARCHBISHOP Desmond Tutu urged churches to be “the hands, feet, eyes, and ears of Jesus in the fight against local and global poverty”, and praised churches for the work they were already doing in this area. “Thank you for being a local church that wants to engage with other local churches; for wanting to make the invisible God visible.”
The Archbishop was speaking at “Who is My Neighbour?”, a conference aimed at persuading British churches to become more involved in the campaign to reduce local and global poverty.
More than 800 people attended the event, which was organised by Tearfund at Jesus House church in north London. Speakers included the Revd Nicky Gumbel, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton, in London, and Lynne Hybels, the co-founder of one of the largest churches in the United States, Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago.
The conference coincided with the launch of Tearfund’s Alive appeal, which seeks to increase access to treatment and support for those with HIV. Mrs Hybels explained how she had been awakened to the issue of HIV/AIDS while on a trip to Uganda, and had decided to raise awareness of the pandemic.
Tearfund’s association with Archbishop Tutu, however, has caused disquiet among some Christian groups because of his liberal stance on sexuality.
In an interview with the BBC after the conference, the Archbishop said he felt ashamed of his fellow Anglicans, who were “obsessed” with the issue of homosexuality while 30,000 people die each day because of poverty.
The Revd Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative group Reform, said that he would be writing to Matthew Frost, Tearfund’s chief executive, to seek clarification of their position. Mr Thomas said it would be “hugely worrying” for Tearfund to associate itself with Archbishop Tutu, “whose views on sexuality are not shared by many of its supporters”.
But Peter Grant, the international director of Tearfund, said that they had much to learn from the Archbishop, because of his experience of poverty and injustice.
“Tearfund works with a lot of global leaders around the world and doesn’t always share their views, but is united with them in the campaign to end global injustice and poverty,” Mr Grant said. “We recognise sexuality is a complex and divisive issue for the Church, but we don’t want this debate to be a distraction from the needs of the poor.”