FRESH from speaking out
on energy prices, Wonga, and demand for foodbanks, the Archbishop
of Canterbury was unrepentant this week about engaging in politics,
arguing that "when justice is not at our heart, our worship makes
Addressing the Church
Urban Fund's Tackling Poverty Together Conference at Stratford Old
Town Hall, on Wednesday, Archbishop Welby said that his
interventions had prompted some people to tell him to "stick to
God". "I do," he replied, to laughter. "The common good of the
community and justice are absolutely central to what it means to be
He drew a clear
distinction between politics - "the art and science of securing the
common good of the community through government" - and party
politics - "civil war civilised". Although many Christians made a
"valuable contribution" in the latter, he suggested that "politics
in general is something from which none of us should seek our
"We are not allowed the luxury . . . of saying 'something must be
done,'" he said. "The Church Urban Fund is among those leaders who
add 'and we will do something.'"
Asked about how the
Church could use its "prophetic voice" without drifting into party
politics, he said: "The Church's prophetic voice comes from being
immersed in local communities in a way that nobody else is." He
gave the example of the so-called bedroom tax, where churches could
be "saying, 'from our local communities, we know that this is
happening,' and challenging with the reality of life on the
He confessed that commenting on welfare reform was
something "I really struggle with. . . If you say anything, the
headline the next day is 'Archbishop slams Government'.
. . . I am quite
clear as I meet people in Government . . . you do not find that
they have two horns and a tail; they are people struggling with
really difficult issues. . ."
The conference was also
addressed by Lord Glasman, the founder of the "Blue Labour"
movement. He argued that both the Market and the State had failed,
and that the faith groups were key to building a new society based
on "agency, relationship, solidarity and vocation". They should
join with Trade Unions, "an obvious ally".