Church leaders from across the denominational spectrum have spoken out powerfully and with one voice to challenge the Government’s narrative on welfare, destitution and food poverty over the past week.
In 20 years its hard to think of any other issue on which such a breadth of church leaders from across the denominations have spoken out so clearly and powerfully from the same hymn sheet (as it were).
Nicols: Welfare cuts a ‘disgrace’ that has ripped apart nation’s safety net
Cardinal Vincent Nicols led the way, a week ago, criticised the Government’s welfare cuts, calling them a “disgrace” and arguing that a safety net for the country’s most poor has been removed. The now Cardinal Nichols added that because of a punitive administration system, some people are being left with no resources for several weeks, relying instead on food banks.
43 Church leaders sign letter in support of End Hunger Fast
On Thursday, 43 Anglican, Methodist, Quaker and United Reformed Church leaders signed a joint open letter published in the Daily Mirror, which equally did not mince its words:
“We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using foodbanks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.
There is an acute moral imperative to act. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing so already, as they set up and support foodbanks across the UK. But this is a national crisis, and one we must rise to.”
27 Anglican Bishops signed the letter, with many of them following up by taking to the airwaves on local and national tv and radio and in local papers to reinforce their support for the letter.
Archbishops of Canterbury, past and present, join the call
In the face of criticism of the Cardinal’s remarks from David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, weighed into the fray, saying that Vincent Nichols was giving voice to an ‘upswell of feeling’ in communities with his warning that benefit cuts are leaving the poor facing ‘hunger and destitution.’
Rowan Williams, the ex Archbishop of Canterbury, added his voice on Friday, stating that:
“People who are using food banks are not scroungers who are cynically trying to work the system. They are drawn from the six million working poor in this country, people who are struggling to make ends meet in low paid or bitty employment.”
And on Saturday, the President of the Methodist Conference, Rev Ruth Gee, posted a powerful blog entitled Trampling the head of the poor into the dust of the earth
It wasn’t acceptable in the time of Amos (8th century BC) and it isn’t acceptable now.
This isn’t about party politics.
This isn’t about scoring points.
This is about basic morality.
This is about according respect to human beings.
This is about feeding the hungry.
This is about facing up to the fact of our divided society, recognising inequality and injustice and doing something about it.
This is about truth and justice.
With church leaders from Wales and Scotland adding their voice, to date, there has not been a single church leader anywhere in the UK expressing a dissenting voice.
On this issue, the Churches are clear and united: This is about respect for human beings, feeding the hungry, facing up to a divided society. It is about truth and justice.
Next week sees the launch of the End Hunger Fast – sign up now!
Ash Wednesday next week (5 March) sees the launch of the End Hunger Fast – an unparallel opportunity for the churches – and others – to speak and act together with one mind. If you haven’t signed up to the End Hunger Fast , do so now!
For those who doubted that the Churches – when the speak with one voice – can have a powerful national impact – and force politicians to think again about the policies which are having such a destructive impact on the lives of thousands in communities across the country – think again.