Bishop slams clergy that 'abandon' the poor by refusing to leave middle-class areas

A bishop has slammed Church of England priests who are unwilling to leave middle-class and wealthy areas to serve the poor and reminded them that Jesus called on them to plant new churches and make a difference in people's lives.

(REUTERS / Toby Melville)A homeless person begs in central London April 21, 2009.

In a speech delivered during the Christian conference New Wine, Rt Revd Philip North reminded priests that the Church of England has a mission to share the Gospel to the poor and not to be "complicit" in abandoning them by focusing on the rich people's needs. The Bishop of Burnley challenged the clergy to go beyond the wealthy areas and reach out to the poor if they really want to make a difference for Christ, The Telegraph relayed.

"I am astonished at the number of people Jesus is calling to plant new churches as long as they are in Zones 1 and 2 of the London transport system," said Bishop North. "If you feel called to plant, we need you on the outer estates, we need you in our northern towns, we need you in areas where a majority of people come from other world faiths, we need you in those areas where the trendy coffee shops and artisanal bakers are hard to find."

As an example, Bishop North pointed to Hartlepool in northeastern England, where it had taken more than two years to fill a clergy vacancy. He said the ministers did not want to live in that kind of place and to have their children study together with poor kids.

This is not the first time that Bishop North publicly expressed his disdain at clergy's treatment of the poor. In an opinion piece in The Church Times in December, he said the church needs to listen to the marginalized people's voices even if it does not like what they are saying.

Bishop North said the "marginalized working class" feels abandoned by the entities that were supposed to represent them. He added that these people watch their income shrinking while the rich continue piling up their wealth.

In light of the situation, Bishop North suggested that the Church of England start spending more time in urban ministry and assigning the best clergy to the most deprived areas. Until then, the voices of the poor will continue to be ignored.

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