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Welby reiterates opposition to cuts

12 July 2013

METHODIST CONFERENCE

THE Archbishop of Canterbury spoke out again against government cuts on Wednesday, criticising those unable to see beyond purely economic calculations.

Addressing the Methodist Conference, Archbishop Welby described the challenges of working for the common good, given the scale of government debt. "The economy has changed," he said. "We make mistakes. We either go in for pietism of a sort, which says 'We will do it all', or buck-shifting: 'The Government must do it.'"

The State had its limitations: "It can't hand you support in a way that is not condescending, or the creation of dependency. . . A genuine common good has to be resourced in common by the whole community."

He was critical of the Government's austerity programme. There was a danger of responding to the size of government debt through inflation, the tool of choice for Henry VIII, and "the worst tax on the poor".

He described a visit from the author of a report for the think tank Policy Exchange, which suggested that some cities in the North should be abandoned (Cities Unlimited, 2008). The author "could not see that the common good overwhelms those sorts of calculations, and the work of the Spirit of God gives us optimism about changes in our society which mean we are not determined by economics."

The Archbishop said that he had watched the Methodist Conference with "fascination and admiration", noting the "visibility of women at the podium". The division between Anglicanism and Methodism was "inspired more than anything by Anglican pride and episcopal status". Visible unity "releases treasure", he said.

The Church of England had experienced this at the General Synod in York. A woman opposed to the ordination of women had described how she and another woman committed to that cause had spent time in facilitated discussions, and had "not come to agreement, but reached mutual trust".

The Archbishop also announced that the £50,000 cut in the budget allocated to Fresh Expressions, a joint Anglican-Methodist initiative, would be reversed by transferring funds from other budgets.

This was "a down payment on what could happen between us. . . The initial risks need to be taken this time by the Anglicans, because last time you took the bet, and it's time we did."

Watch Archbishop Welby's address here.

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