Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Church leaders focus on recession

Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams has called the credit crunch a reality check for a greedy society

The General Synod of the Church of England is to discuss the impact of the recession on its ministry.

The debate will be introduced by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who criticised bankers in his Christmas sermon for pursuing "ruthless gain".

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has also likened spending in a recession to addicts re-using drugs.

On Wednesday, a motion urging better promotion of the church among other religions was overwhelmingly passed.

The debate on the recession comes as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, warned that Britain was in "deep recession" and facing an even worse slump than first feared.

'Crippling damage'

The jobless total has also reached 1.97 million with the number claiming Jobseeker's Allowance up for the 12th month in a row - from 73,800 in January to 1.23 million.

Some high-profile bishops have already triggered debate on the issue with their forthright views.

Writing in the Spectator in September, Dr Rowan Williams attacked "paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit for traders" and said when trading went badly it caused "real and crippling damage".

He also said the credit crunch was a "reality check" for a society driven by unsustainable greed.

The General Synod meeting
Members of the General Synod are meeting at Church House in London

In an earlier speech, Dr John Sentamu called share traders who cashed in on falling prices "bank robbers and asset strippers".

The Church's national assembly, meeting in London, also discussed how to convert new followers, passing a motion by 283 votes to eight which called for better guidance. It called for bishops to give extra training and encouragement to clergy to evangelise non-Christians.

Critics said raising the issue could damage the Church's relations with other religions, including Muslims, but the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said that did not appear to be the case.

"The motion raised concerns among liberal Anglicans and especially those who live amongst Muslims that this would be an inflammatory gesture, he said.

"But it doesn't seem to have been interpreted like that at least by Muslim leaders.

"The Imams I have spoken to say evangelism is common to their religion too and that they would expect to gain more converts than they lost."

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