ACCEPTING widespread inequality without question is "complacent
[and] lazy", the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
"Equality is a gift in creation," Archbishop Welby said. "Is it
possible, where there is gross inequality, for equality in worship
and fellowship to be maintained?"
Speaking on Monday at a conference in New York arranged by
Trinity Church, Wall Street, Archbishop Welby argued that although
the Bible did not consider wealth to be bad in itself, excessive
concentrations of money among a small elite should not be
"In the Bible there is a respect for and a sense of God's
blessing for those who create wealth for the common good. But there
is a biblical injunction against the systematic and indefinite
accumulation of grossly unequal societies."
He sketched out an ambivalence towards wealth throughout the
scriptures and liturgy, which simultaneously view it as a blessing
from God as well as potentially damaging to spiritual health.
"While at one side we see it as an evil and a sign of a society
turning away from God, a danger which plays on the weakness of
human sinfulness; on the other, we are equally likely to regard
those who possess it as uniquely blessed and even to pray for their
Archbishop Welby also drew the audience's attention to the
impact of the jubilee laws in ancient Israel, which prevented huge
disparities of wealth building up, as well as the radical pooling
of property and resources in the early Church.
Indeed, the Magnificat was so revolutionary it could have been
banned as un-American during the McCarthy era, he said.
Earlier, Archbishop Welby had preached at Trinity Church on the
"provocative" message of Jesus to the hierarchical world of the
Pharisees. "[Jesus] does not permit us to accept a society in which
the weak are excluded," he said. "We are called to action, to seek
the welfare of the city. We are to get our hands dirty, to speak of
policy and of implementation; not merely to deal with the macro but
also with the micro."
But the Church has the means to meet the challenge of growing
inequality in the Western world, which he said was largely prompted
by liberalisation of the financial markets 30 years ago.
"The Church, in the grace and the providence of God, holds
within its hands the beauty of opportunity that can change our
world, liberate the enslaved, create the conditions of human