Churches challenge politicians and voters to debate

 Churches Together in Britain and Ireland's online discussion forum goes live today following the launch of the major study on ethical prosperity, 'Prosperity with a Purpose', in the House of Lords. Prosperity with a Purpose, the result of a two-year project of a working group set up by CTBI, is intended to have a major impact on public opinion in the run-up to the General Election which is expected to be called in May. Copies have been sent to Downing Street and to senior party politicians. The web forum has been opened to generate discussion at: The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has called on political leaders to take to heart this major study by the Churches on poverty and wealth. The Right Revd Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark ; The Most Revd Mario Conti, Archbishop of Glasgow; Anthea Cox, The Methodist Church Connexional Team; and Dr Alison Elliot, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland have welcomed the report. CTBI is the official ecumenical body which brings together Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Reformed, Free Church, African and African-Caribbean traditions. CTBI is the direct successor to the old British Council of Churches. Prosperity with a Purpose, calls for an attack on poverty to be driven by wealth creation based on market economics. The report says the fundamental principle of "nobody left behind" demands a new and wider sense of solidarity in modern Britain, together with a deep renewal of civil society. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor called for government and voters to take seriously the document's conclusions. In a statement read at the launch on Monday morning by an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, Bernard Longley, he said: "In 1997 the Catholic Church published, in The Common Good, its teaching on social issues. Today's document, which echoes much of the message of The Common Good, has been commissioned by all the Christian Churches in Britain and Ireland. Their representatives have put forward their analysis of the moral challenges for governments and people of our affluent society." The Cardinal added: "This document is not a complaint or a rant. Nor is it a prescription. It does not offer simple answers to intractable problems. But it challenges all of us, private citizens as well as those in public life, to recognize our responsibility to the disadvantaged in our own country and beyond. A lot has been done. We need to do more. Today we, the Christian Churches in our country, are asking that government, the political parties and individuals take to heart this serious analysis and reflect on the policy ideas it puts forward." The report asks what is the purpose of prosperity. It asserts that people who are made in the image of God should be able to live and share in a just, fair and decent society, part of a just, fair and decent world. It does not provide simple answers but it does discuss in detail how poverty can be shared. The report's principal author, Catholic journalist Clifford Longley, said at the launch: "This is a Christian contribution to political debate that no political party can afford to ignore. It is a challenge to politicians, as much as it is to those whose votes they want, to think more profoundly about their own fundamental philosophy. What sort of society do we want to be?" The debate will continue at follow-up events including one in the Welsh Assembly building, Cardiff on Monday 7 March, addressed by the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales and by Edwina Hart, Minister for Social Justice and Regeneration. A day conference, 'Raising questions before the general election', will be held on 14 April at Methodist Church House, Marylebone Road, London NW1. Source: CTBI

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