Bishop: Church Too Middle Class, Must Listen To Poor Communities
An Anglican Bishop has launched a strongly worded attempt to persaude the Church of England to listen more to deprived communities.
The Bishop of Burnley's commnent piece for the Church Times also finds him railing against the middle class bias of the Church, and reflecting on the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote.
The Rt Rev Philip North says, "it is vital that we stop condemning, and instead listen to the voices of those who have used their democratic right to express a deep-seated frustration at structures and institutions that have abandoned them, and at a middle-class culture that misunderstands or misrepresents their heartfelt concerns."
Bishop North also suggests that the Church may pay lip service to listening to poorer people, but it doesn't happen enough in reality. "The Church's agenda is being set not by the poor, but by academia, the moneyed elites, and certain sections of the secular media," he says.
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Only one Church of England Bishop (Shrewsbury) spoke out in favour of Brexit, and Bishop North suggests many middle-class clergy are nervous about engaging with issues seen as too controversial. "Surely an Established Church has a part to play in finding a new and unifying national narrative," he argues, "that is patriotic, besides tolerant and inclusive."
Burnley has recently been voted the friendliest town in the UK, but its politics also has a darker side. The fascist British National Party held seats on the town's council in the early 2000s.
Burnley's Bishop suggests that the way to win back disillusioned voters is to begin to listen – and the Church has a vital role. He says, "Until the Church re-invests in urban ministry, places the best leaders in the most deprived parishes, and returns to the estates it has abandoned, these voices will continue to go unheard."