THE baby-boomer generation has absorbed much of the "massive"
amounts of public expenditure in recent years, raising "severe
questions of intergenerational equity", the Bishop of London, the
Rt Revd Richard Chartres, said on Monday.
Delivering the annual Premier Christian Media Trust lecture,
Bishop Chartres took as his theme "Building Jerusalem in England's
green and pleasant land".
"It is very difficult, it seems to me, at the moment, for our
politicians to offer any credible vision which is cast largely in
material terms," he said.
"We have been living through a period where the resources
available to government were and are massive. . . And much of that
is absorbed by the fortunate generation to which I belong, in ways
which raise questions - severe questions - of intergenerational
equity. Questions of distributive justice continue to be of vital
concern for our political leaders, and so they should be also for
He quoted figures that suggested that annual public expenditure
had grown from £260 billion, when Tony Blair became Prime Minister,
to nearly £695 billion last year.
Bishop Chartres outlined a number of challenges that faced the
world, and said that the solution was "beyond the capacity of the
old system of nation states and international institutions".
The world, he said, "is being rebalanced. Economic and military
power is shifting eastwards. The period of unchallengable Western
hegemony, after 250 years, is at an end. Previous periods marked by
the rise of new powers have led to war. You only have to think back
to the disastrous European civil war of 1914 to 1918 to realise the
truth that even the interdependent character of the modern global
economy is no insurance against mutually destructive conflict."
The Church was not immune to his criticism. As the centenary of
the outbreak of the First World War approached, Bishop Chartres
said that both Christians and Socialists would have to answer "some
very hard questions as to why their visions of universal
brotherhood - and, in the Christian case, self-sacrificing love -
crumbled in the face of the patriotic frenzy that propelled
millions of men into the trenches". The Church ought to be
"thoroughly ashamed" of its failure to establish "global
In the past 40 years, many parts of the Church had suffered from
"introversion", and a "tendency to fidget with structure and
elaborate bureaucracies", alienating those "thirsting for immediate
personal contact with the transcendent".
Hope, he suggested, was to be found in fresh engagement with the
Bible. "Political discourse and analysis has recently been largely
confined to narrow channels, largely an argument about economic
"By contrast, to make authentic contact with the biblical text,
it is necessary to enter into, and appreciate, a discourse that is
not meant to be scientifically descriptive or explanatory, but one
that is full of dynamic poetic metaphor, and with the potential of
releasing the energy necessary to inspire a new generation of
architects and builders of Jerusalem in England's green and
London sets out seven-year vision