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Welby deplores wealth inequality

30 January 2015


On the doorstep: a homeless woman drags a sack of belongings on Wall Street, during snowfall on Tuesday 

On the doorstep: a homeless woman drags a sack of belongings on Wall Street, during snowfall on Tuesday 

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 tolerated.

"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 prosperity."

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 flourishing."

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