Church guilty of 'abandoning the poor', Synod told

Philip North urged the Church to 'give substance to its bias to the poor'

The Church is guilty of disproportionately favouring rich areas over poor estates, the CofE's governing body heard today.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's evangelism task group presented a report to General Synod where it warned statistics from urban estates revealed the Church was in danger of "abandoning the poor". The Church only spends £5.09 per head of population is spent on ministry on estates compared to £7.90 nationally.

"We are all leaders of a Church that has taken a preferential option for the rich," the Bishop of Burnley told Synod. "Unless we are a poor church for the poor, our mission will come to nothing."

Church influence on urban estates is "dying and dying very quickly", said Philip North. Figures reveal that church attendance nationally is 1.7 per cent but on estates it is only 0.8 per cent.

North urged the Church to correct the financial unfairness and "give substance to its bias to the poor".

"The battle for the soul of this nation will not be won in Kensington but on the outer estates where life is hard and the Church is failing," he continued.

The report comes nearly two years after the Archbishops' task group on evangelism was established to "hold the vision and priority of evangelism before every part of the Church of England".

Justin Welby, who commissioned the report alongside the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, described evangelism as "our duty, our privilege and our joy".

"Evangelism and witness must be part of the operating system of the Church of England not merely an App running on the existing way of doing things," he said.

"The group is seeking to be provocative, in order that effective evangelism may become a constant feature of ministry and mission across the dioceses and parishes of the Church of England," Welby and Sentamu said in a joint statement within the report.

As well as discussing the Church's influence in urban estates, the report also discussed evangelism among young people, BAME groups and within sports and social clubs through chaplains.

Mark Russell, chief executive of the Church Army and member of the task group told Christian Today he was "excited" that Synod debated the report.

"There are hard questions in this report and I hope the synod will be enthusiastic and passionate about helping the whole church reach out more to those around us", he said.

On Wednesday Synod will be asked to support recommendations made to reduce the impact of the government's sanctions policy on benefit claimants.