The United Reformed Church General Secretary, the Revd Roberta Rominger, has responded to the death of Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, at the age of 87.
“Baroness Thatcher was a global political figure – one of the most influential of the twentieth century – one who engendered strong feelings in people. Whatever our views on the direction in which she led Britain, we should recognise that she gave her time and energy selflessly, in what she believed to be the best interests of the country” said Roberta Rominger.
“She was not afraid of changing things – nor of confrontation. We in the Church should not be afraid of change, if we believe that is what God is saying to us today; neither should we fear unpopularity, when we speak out against political thinking that does not accord with what we see as Christ’s teaching on compassion and social justice”.
Baroness Thatcher had been diagnosed with dementia in 2008 and had become patron of Alzheimers’ Research UK. Roberta Rominger added: “Her final frailty, in stark contrast to her celebrated strength as the Iron Lady, offered encouragement to other sufferers and helped promote better research.”
Photo credit: The Margaret Thatcher Foundation
Bookings are going “stupendously well” for the Courage, Conscience and Conviction conference organised by the United Reformed Church and the Congregational Federation, as part of an initiative to explore expressions of Dissent in the history and present day experiences of the two denominations. The three day event, at the Hayes conference centre in Derbyshire, takes place on 28-30 June.
The first phase of the year-long “appreciative inquiry” has been about gathering information and facilitating conversations regarding the forms that Dissent takes in 2013 – in education, economics, politics, work, family, community, and ministry – and the implications of the history of Dissent in Christian life and witness.
After the conference, there will be a period of analysis and reflection; the inquiry will then conclude with events to celebrate and affirm ways in which people can continue to live authentically as non-conformist Christians.
The Revd Elizabeth Gray-King, URC Education and Learning Programmes Officer, says: “Bookings for the conference are going stupendously well, but before that takes place, we want to encourage people to go to the website www.ccc2013.org.uk to take part in the conversations. Material already posted can be printed off as discussion starters for church groups”.
Elizabeth Gray-King, who is one of the organisers, adds: “We hope this will be a springboard into future growth and life for the whole of the Congregational Federation and the URC”. Other organisers are Dave Adams (facilitator) and Janet Wootten (Congregational Federation).
Four major British Churches have described Chancellor George Osborne’s defence of the Government’s benefit cuts as ‘deeply disappointing,’ following his speech earlier today.
“We are deeply disappointed that Mr Osborne is continuing to use the misguided rhetoric of people on benefits versus ‘hardworking taxpayers’. The Government’s own figures show that most people on benefits not only want to work, but many of them are already in work and paying high rates of tax,” said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser, speaking on behalf of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and Church of Scotland.
“We desperately want people to achieve their God-given potential, but that can’t happen when the most vulnerable are being made even poorer. The churches are serving their local communities day in and day out. They reflect the breadth of society and are in touch with the needs of the people they serve. We hope to reflect those concerns, and we look forward to the day when myths about poverty are no longer acceptable in public life."
"While nine out of ten working households will benefit from an increased tax allowance, the poorest working households will benefit the least and will be affected most by the benefit cuts introduced this month. It is absolutely clear that the net result of these changes will not be nine out of ten working households better off, as has been widely reported."
The Churches’ report, The lies we tell ourselves, says that statistics have been manipulated and misused by politicians across the spectrum, as well as by the media, to support the belief that the poor deserve their poverty, and therefore deserve the cuts.
The Chancellor has been sent a copy of the report.
“This is not a party political issue - sidelining and misrepresenting the poor is unacceptable whoever you are,” added Mr Morrison. “Lies about poverty are the responsibility of us all, whether we tell, share or just tolerate them. It is everyone’s duty to ensure that the poor are not misrepresented and that policy matches up to hard facts.
“We invite Mr Osborne to read the report and consider how he might challenge myths about poverty as he seeks to balance Britain’s books.”
Cuts being introduced by the government throughout April are unjust, say British churches, because the poorest people will be the hardest hit.
In a statement widely reported in the national media, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the Church of Scotland, representing more than one million people across Britain, say that the most vulnerable will pay a disproportionate price in the Government’s austerity measures.
“These cuts make April fools of us all,” said Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser. “We are witnessing what happens when we create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty. It is a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that they have an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation’s financial deficit. When people are willing to believe those lies, poor families pay the highest price.”