THIS weekend, the ecumenical charity Church Action on Poverty is publishing a new resource, A Church of the Poor?, which highlights the good work already going on in many churches, but says that more needs to be done to put the poorest and most vulnerable first.
The charity’s director, Niall Cooper, said: “Pope Francis has said that he wants ‘a poor Church, for the poor’, but what does it actually mean to be a Church of and for the poor? Here in the UK, are our churches doing enough to stand in solidarity with people in poverty?
“This is a question which Church Action on Poverty has wrestled with for more than 30 years, but one which we will be pursuing with renewed vigour over the coming months.
“Our ‘Church of the Poor’ programme will provide further materials and resources that enable churches to discover together what it means to truly be a church of the poor. We look forward to churches across the UK joining us on this journey.”
The resource has been supported by leading figures in nearly all the UK’s Christian traditions. The secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, the Revd Dr Martin Johnstone, said: “Priority for the poorest and the most marginalised is the gospel imperative facing the whole Church, not just the Church in the poorest places.”
Greg Smith, of the Evangelical Alliance, said: “There is still much to do before the Church as a whole moves from being for the poor to being alongside and of the poor. We need to make good use of the relationships formed with people who make use of all our projects, and listen to what they, and, through them, the Spirit, are saying to the Church today.”
The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said: “I am sick and tired of hearing pompous tosh about the ‘Church’s prophetic voice’ or the ‘Church in the public square’ whilst at the same time we are busy abandoning the people we purport to represent by closing their churches and withdrawing their clergy.”
The resource, which also contains case studies of community projects, and background on each tradition’s theology and practice in relation to poverty, will be available from Monday to download, free, at www.church-poverty.org.uk/poorchurch.