Archbishop of Canterbury calls for 'footwashing' church

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for a Church that is united, confident and humble in working together for the common good.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby said Christians were not called to be useful but to bring about a revolution of peace and love by becoming a "footwashing" church.

He said it was the role of the church to identify with the poor in a way that "stands us alongside them, not just talking to them".

Commenting on the state of the UK economy, he said the way to recovery was not through inflation, which he described as the "worst tax on the poor" because of its hammering effect on food and fuel prices.

The Archbishop criticised imbalances in cuts and spending between the North and South, saying that between 2010 and 2012 per capita spending on infastructural investment in the South East was over £2,000 per head, compared to just £5 per head in the North East.

"We all know that there is a gross imbalance in the allocation of resources," he said.

"There is a danger of the radical autonomy, the radical individualism of our society that whole sectors dismiss other sectors.

"Economics has to be our servant not our master."

The Archbishop was addressing the Methodist Conference meeting in Westminster last night. He spoke at length about the need for visible unity between the two Churches, which this year are marking the tenth anniversary of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant on unity.

"Our Covenant between ourselves and yourselves is a call to die with Christ to our own interests, not to calculate relative advantage," he said.

"It's insane hospitality opens arms to all those who will join the spiritual energy, the bigger vision, the more radical, the more revolutionary steps that are called for."

Just a few days after the Church of England announced that it was cutting its Fresh Expressions budget by £50,000, the Archbishop announced last night that this decision has been reversed as a "tangible expression of apology" and the Church's commitment to working towards unity.

Fresh Expressions is a joint movement between the Church of England and Methodist Council, launched in 2004, to explore new forms of church for those not attracted by traditional church forms.

Archbishop Welby drew applause when he told the Methodist Conference that the £50,000 had been found from other budgets and would no longer be cut from Fresh Expressions.

"Fresh Expressions is essentially a down payment on what could happen between us," he said.

"It is a call by the Spirit of God to renew every effort with all we have."

Following his speech at the Methodist Conference, the Archbishop launched a new report into the Big Society and the civic engagement of the Church of England.

The ResPublica report says the Church of England, with its strong volunteering culture, could save David Cameron's Big Society initiative. The Church of England is encouraged to do more to support grassroots social action projects and establish social action teams in every diocese.

The Archbishop said: "For the churches to have any credibility, for the churches to unlock the wealth that God offers us through His Spirit that will enable us not merely to be useful ... we are not useful, we are about revolution, a revolution of peace and love that sees the common good in dream and, through the resources released by visible unity, brings it into reality."