The minimum wage is not enough to live on, the new leader of the Methodist Church in Britain has warned. The President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev Dr Neil Richardson, made the claim as part of a stinging critique of what the modern market is doing to the poorest in society. His keynote address was the first act of the new President after his induction at the start of this year's Methodist Conference at the North Wales Theatre, Llandudno. The President is the most senior office to be held by a minister in the Methodist Church in Britain. In the address, Dr Richardson said: "Must we not say that capitalism, as we know it, is not working well? A capitalism which, under successive governments, continues to enlarge the gap between rich and poor, cannot, by Biblical standards, be said to be working well. A capitalism which requires people to work harder than is good for them, which drives the price of housing out of the reach of many of its citizens, which seems to generate more stress and depressive illness, a capitalism which is ravaging the environment, cannot be said to be working well. In this country the minimum wage is not enough to live on." He went on to voice concern about the ability of the Christian faith to thrive in an affluent society: "We know there are no simplistic solutions, still less that wealth creation is unnecessary. Modern wealth has brought countless benefits to the human race. But to ask now: What is our affluence doing to us?, might just be the beginning of wisdom. And to keep asking what is our brand of capitalism doing to the poor in Britain, and across the world, is the task of a prophetic church." Elsewhere in his address, Dr Richardson reflected on the 300th anniversary this month of the birth of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. He warned the Church against "Wesleyan fundamentalism", saying that Methodists should not "simply do or say what Wesley did then. We have to ask what we need to leave behind, what we need to cherish and take with us into the future." Titling his address "A God-centred Church, he also called on Methodists not to lapse into being "a church-centred church, liable to lapse into one of two false positions. Either it becomes a religious ghetto, a cultural island, secure in its own little world, but quite irrelevant to the wider world. Or, chameleon-like, it takes on the values and outlook of the culture of which it is part." Many people - whether churchgoers or not - have false pictures of God that need to be left behind, urged Dr Richardson. For churchgoers, this is the god who turns the Bible into ammunition for them to throw at people with whom they disagree. For those outside the churches, there is "the god you were put off believing in at school, the god you grew out of, rather like Santa Claus, the god who is little more than a cosmic frown or a giant question-mark".
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