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Bishop and parish priest of Liz Truss remind her of Christian values

08 September 2022

The new Prime Minister is due to announce plans to curb the cost-of-living crisis

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Liz Truss, newly appointed Prime Minister, faces the press in Downing Street on Tuesday evening

Liz Truss, newly appointed Prime Minister, faces the press in Downing Street on Tuesday evening

AMONG the messages of congratulation sent to the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, this week, was a letter from her bishop and parish priest, enclosing a holding cross to serve as “a tangible reminder that we are loved and held in the palm of God’s hand”.

The Area Bishop of Woolwich, Dr Karowei Dorgu, and the Vicar of St Alfege, Greenwich, the Revd Simon Winn, in whose parish Ms Truss lives, wrote to her on Monday, after she was elected Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

The holding cross was “created from olive wood by a Palestinian Christian craftsman in Bethlehem”, they wrote. “At St Alfege we give one of these tactile holding crosses to our members taking new steps or challenges in life.

“As you take up your new challenge we offer it as a gift and tangible reminder that we are loved and held in the palm of God’s hand and that you are being held in prayer by Christians across the country and here in your local parish.”

Ms Truss would have fond memories of St Alfege’s, since it was where she and her husband, Hugh O’Leary, an accountant, were married in 2000. The marriage was reportedly solemnised by her uncle, Canon Richard Truss, a former Vicar of St John’s, Waterloo, in London, who is now a retired priest with permission to officiate in the diocese of Southwark.

She is not known to be a regular communicant, however. She told the Evening Standard last month: “I share the values of the Christian faith and the Church of England, but I’m not a regular practising religious person.”

Ms Truss officially became Prime Minister on Tuesday, in an audience with the Queen at Balmoral, succeeding Boris Johnson, who announced his resignation on 7 July (News, 15 July).

The previous day, it was announced that Ms Truss had received 57 per cent of valid votes cast by Conservative Party members: 81,326. Her remaining rival for the leadership, the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, received 60,399 votes.

Speaking to party members in the Queen Elizabeth Centre, Westminster, after the vote was announced, Ms Truss promised “a bold plan” of tax cuts and economic growth, as well as measures to cut people’s energy bills and to “deliver on the National Health Service”.

Had Ms Truss and her team not yet had time to open Dr Dorgu’s and Mr Winn’s letter, they might have noticed messages from senior clerics on social media (News, 5 September).

Among these was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that he was praying for Ms Truss “as she takes on the great responsibilities of leadership at a time of such significant challenges”. He implored her to show “particular care for those who are vulnerable”.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Welby’s public affairs adviser, Katie Harrison, confirmed on Twitter that she would be joining 10 Downing Street, reportedly as a political adviser. 

Charities and campaigners were quick to outline the scale of the challenges facing Ms Truss, not least the cost-of-living crisis.

Pastor Mick Fleming, who runs the Church on the Street charity in Burnley (News, 11 December 2020), said at a briefing on Tuesday, organised by the Religion Media Centre: “We’re seeing a new kind of poverty. We’re seeing mothers and children on the street. People can’t afford to pay top-up on rent; so they’re homeless.” Those who had previously given money to support his charity were less likely to do so, he said, because of their own concerns about rising costs. Mr Fleming called for a “coalition of common sense” to address the crisis, which he described as “a greed crisis”.

Church leaders in Northern Ireland and Ireland issued a joint call for measures to address the cost-of-living crisis. “Projections for the autumn point to the situation worsening while too many people are already struggling to afford essentials like food and fuel and are in real danger of losing their homes, health or lives,” they wrote.

“As leaders of churches with a presence across the island, we are deeply concerned by what we are seeing on the ground, with the increasing energy and food prices disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, often leaving people with impossible choices to make, missing meals and falling into arrears on bills.”

On Thursday, Ms Truss was due to announce plans to curb the cost-of-living crisis, including freezing annual household energy bills at £2500. She was not expected to use windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies to fund the package, which is reported to cost up to £150 billion.

One of her first moves as Prime Minister was to scrap the Bill of Rights, which had been widely criticised, including by bishops in the House of Lords (News, 22 July). It is unclear where this leaves the Government’s Rwanda deportation policy, which has been in limbo since the European Court of Human Rights issued last-minute injunctions to prevent asylum seekers being sent there (News, 17 June). 

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