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Archbishop Speaks On Tackling Poverty At Church Urban Fund Conference

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Wednesday 18th April 2012

The Archbishop of York today addressed the Church Urban Fund’s 2012 Conference on how Churches can have a long term positive impact on poverty at a national and regional level. The conference was held at Great George Street, Leeds.

In his address, the Archbishop referred to depending inequality, the invisibility of poverty and the cyclical nature of poverty.

The Archbishop of York said:

"The churches as they serve their communities should also help the government by giving them the virtue of hope. Hope based both on our biblical understanding of God’s redemptive power and also of our own experience of this country of change and transformation which benefitted the common good.  What God does in the Old Testament and through Jesus, he does again and again through his people.    If the Resurrection is true, there is no situation which can’t be tackled and changed.  God makes the impossible possible. Tackling poverty is key for a healthy and living church. So in the power of the risen Christ this Eastertide, let’s do all we can to challenge the evil of poverty and in so doing, transform lives. 

"We are far richer today yet misery is growing. The current recession has led to significant cuts in public spending and services with more likely in the immediate years ahead. As well as the reality of poverty and growing inequality in our country today, we also face the problem of poverty of vision. Put simply, we have lost a vision of how we might transform our society to bring about changes that we wish to see."

The Archbishop explained: "We are seeing cuts to valuable public services where investment is needed. One of my great privileges, as Archbishop of York, is to have the opportunity to visit different parts of the country on a regular basis, particularly the Northern Province. During my recent visits to dioceses in the North of England, I have noticed the impact which these cuts are starting to have on essential services. These include children services with cuts to the Sure Start Programme, projects for older people and initiatives to help those who are unemployed."

"At a national level, we need to witness clearly that our government must promote social justice. For when the government puts the promotion of social justice at its heart, we can stand together as one nation, recognising the dignity of all and affording fair and equal opportunities for access and services. The Church, when acting prophetically, is not 'a vested interest' amongst other interest groups, but instead, a body which can stand back and be a voice for the powerless, the weak and the dispossessed. Churches of all denominations should fulfil this role today. Despite its vision of the Big Society, our coalition government is under enormous pressures today in the spending decisions it must make. These are likely to intensify in the future and will affect whichever government is in power".

Referring to the Children's Society Report published on 12th January 2012, the Archbishop said: "One of the tasks of the Church of England is to work for the well-being of the whole nation. Not just the people inside its congregation but the people outside its walls too. One of the challenges which the Church makes to society is to see people as God sees them, as people with worth and dignity that are able to contribute to and be involved in public life. We are here to help frame the national debate and to reframe it as it strives to meet the moral aspirations of the country."

In conclusion, the Archbishop outlined the transformative work of local projects such as the Romero Project in Athersley that provide debt counselling, training and apprenticeship schemes, mentoring support and employment opportunities. He said: "It is at the local level that churches can have the best and the most long-term effect on tackling poverty. It is because we have a wealth of experience and skill in serving local communities. This has often been built up over decades of Christian witness and active support to people in the local community, particularly the lonely and the vulnerable. Often the churches have been the only organisations to have done this and so have built up a unique insight into the needs of their particular area."

The Archbishop was joined by other speakers including John Bell - Iona Community, Helen Gatenby- M13 Project, Jude Smith – Pioneer Minister in Leeds and Chris & Anna Hembury – Hull YFC. 

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