Tag Archives: United Reformed Church

Churches say vulnerable will pay the price for Chancellor’s cuts

Churches have voiced concern over Chancellor George Osborne’s inaccurate use of welfare fraud statistics in his Spending Review speech.

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church have criticised the Chancellor for claiming that welfare fraud is responsible for cheating tax payers out of £5 billion a year.

A Department of Work and Pensions report published last week stated that welfare fraud accounts for £1 billion of money lost, with tax credit fraud accounting for an additional £0.6 billion, leading to £1.6 billion lost in total. Church leaders said the exaggerated £5 billion figure depicts the poorest and most vulnerable in society as thieves.

“Exaggerating benefit fraud points the finger of blame at the poor,” said Revd Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference. “Let us be clear this recession was not caused by the poor, those on benefits, or even benefit cheats. The poorest in society only got poorer during the boom years and it’s simply not fair to make them pay for the bust.

“Questions also need to be asked about the £7 billion of uncollected tax revenues that the Chancellor claims he is targeting. According to the HMRC, there is approximately £42 billion in uncollected revenues; why does Mr Osborne only speak of £7 billion?”

Revd Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: “There is already deep concern that the severe reductions in welfare provision will cause immense hardship to the most vulnerable. This misuse of figures to exaggerate the scale of benefit fraud only adds to the sense of injustice.”

Mr Simon Loveitt, Public Issues Spokesperson for the United Reformed Church, added: “The coalition government is very keen to talk about fairness and the false notion that ‘we are all in this together’, but the Chancellor’s exaggeration of fraud and last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review confirm the grim reality that it is those who are most vulnerable who will pay the price for that which is so clearly not their fault.”

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Churches vote to stand with the poor

·         Almost 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 3 children live in poverty in the UK

In the first ever joint meeting of the United Reformed Church Mission Council and the Methodist Council, the Councils voted to work together to challenge the causes of poverty and inequality ingrained in British society.

The joint meeting took place at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, on 13-15 October and encouraged members of both Councils to explore the areas in which the Churches might be most effective when working together.

Council members voted to confirm their commitment to the living wage, to stand alongside those poorest and most vulnerable, and to campaign for benefit and wage policies that allow people to live and work in dignity. This will involve working with other partners, including the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Church Action on Poverty.

The Revd Dr Kirsty Thorpe, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, reflecting on the council, commented: “The joint sessions have shown that the two denominations share much, perhaps more than they ever imagined. On issues such as poverty and the commitment to the young people and children in our congregations we share a common mind. It has been a positive three days and as a result of our time together we have reaffirmed our shared commitment to Jesus and our desire to serve him.”

“This joint meeting signals a real appetite in both Churches for being the best we can be as Christian disciples,” added the Revd Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference (pictured left). “In all our discussions we have seen a deeper commitment to working together to make Christ’s love known in the world, to challenge poverty and injustice wherever we find it and to support and share with one another on our different journeys.”

In their discussions, the Councils re-committed themselves to working together with children and young people in Britain through the widest variety of means. They also agreed to form a group to take forward recent joint work between the Methodist Church and the URC on church buildings, focusing on the potential to share expertise and resources.

The URC Mission Council and the Methodist Council also met separately to discuss matters affecting the Churches individually.

In its separate business sessions the Mission Council of the United Reformed Church considered a range of business issues including a resolution from the Human Sexuality Task Group, which was brought following the passing of the Equality Act. The Council heard that the act will require a statement of URC policy on whether or not its church buildings may be registered for holding civil partnership ceremonies and the Mission Council authorised the Task Group to begin work on writing such a policy.

In its separate sessions, the Methodist Council discussed a range of issues, including how the Church’s structures might best encourage and facilitate the Church’s mission in local and regional areas. Council members also welcomed the news that the Fijian government has dropped most of the charges against leaders of the Methodist Church in Fiji. The members of the Fiji Methodist Church Standing Committee were charged with attending an unauthorized meeting held in April 2009, and all but four of them have had their charges dropped due to ‘insufficient evidence’.

The Methodist Church is one of the largest Christian churches serving Great Britain, with nearly 241,000 members and regular contact with over 550,000 people. It has 5,237 churches in Great Britain, and also maintains links with other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.

The United Reformed Church combines its commitment to the Reformed tradition with a passionate belief that all God’s people should be one. It seeks to work with Christians of all traditions, and rejoices in being part of more than 400 Local Ecumenical Partnerships, with the Methodist Church and others.