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Yes, speak out, says Cameron – but you are wrong

23 January 2015

pa

A hard place: Dr Sentamu and Archbishop Welby at the book's launch

A hard place: Dr Sentamu and Archbishop Welby at the book's launch

THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has vigorously defended his new book, which warns that parts of Britain are being left behind; but he denied that the intervention amounted to an attack on the Government.

Dr Sentamu said on Tuesday that the essays in his book On Rock or Sand? ( News, 16 January) were a challenge to anyone considering running the country, both ministers and Opposition alike.

Speaking at the book launch at Church House, in Westminster, he said: "To those who say that the Church should not be involving itself in such matters, I answer: 'My faith compels me to be involved.'

"Christianity [speaks to] how the world should be, and what moral principles and virtues it should reflect. If church leaders cannot speak and write about such matters, they cannot be true to their calling."

Last week, the Prime Minister said that he "profoundly disagreed" with the book, which includes contributions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as researchers, theologians, and politicians.

Archbishop Welby's chapter argues that entire regions of the nation are trapped in an economic downward spiral, while the south-east booms. But Mr Cameron insisted that his Government was not leaving anyone behind; instead, it was "rebalancing" the economy.

"You can see real growth in cities like Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds - indeed, some two-thirds over the last year has come from outside London and the south- east," he told The Daily Telegraph last week. "We are tackling poverty by giving 1.75 million more people a job in our country. Actually, under this Government, inequality has fallen; so I don't think the picture they paint is accurate."

Mr Cameron agreed that the Church had every right to speak out, and that he looked forward to debating these issues in the build-up to the General Election in May.

Dr Sentamu backed Archbishop Welby's critique, saying on Tuesday that Christians could not be content in a world dominated by "individualism and consumerism".

"What the financial collapse in 2008 should teach us is that we were becoming obsessed with money. . . When money rules, we remember the price of things and forget the value of things.

"In a curious way, a consumer society is a mechanism for creating and distributing unhappiness."

He said that the answer could not simply be more spending on welfare or creating more dependency on the State, but shifting the underlying principles of society to those "of freedom, fellowship, service of God and neighbour, and on the rule of law. These are the rock, the firm foundations on which we can build a just, sustainable, and compassionate society in which all can participate and flourish."

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