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Chartres ‘builds Jerusalem’

14 June 2013

SHUTTERSTOCK

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 Christian citizens."

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 conversations".

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 indicators.

"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 pleasant land."

Diocese of London sets out seven-year vision 

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