Christians are regarded as "mad" by society

Introduction: Our Archbishop, John Sentamu, speaks out at HTB. Coverage from the Telegraph on-line 18.2.09

Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu: Christians are regarded as 'mad' by society

Christians are regarded as "mad" by the rest of society because they are motivated by charity and compassion rather than the reckless pursuit of money, according to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

John Sentamu:  Archbishop of York: Christians are regarded as 'mad' by society
Dr Sentamu also said the recession should lead to a rediscovery of what is truly important in life Photo: PA

Churchgoers are now "counter-cultural" because their values are so opposed to prevailing behaviour, claimed Dr Sentamu.

But he insisted that faith cannot be separated from the world of work, and that staff should not be expected to give up their religious convictions when they walk into the office.

Dr Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England and its first black Archbishop, also said the recession should lead to a rediscovery of what is truly important in life, just as Britons rebuilt the country after the devastation of the Blitz.

His comments come amid growing concern about the marginalisation of Christianity in public life.

Labour MPs want to sever the historic link between Church and state, which would end the right of bishops to sit in the House of Lords and remove the right of all residents to be married, baptised or buried by a parish priest.

Meanwhile public sector workers now risk being sacked if they talk about religion in the workplace, under "equality and diversity" rules.

New NHS guidelines state that doctors and nurses face harassment charges if they are accused of "preaching" to colleagues or patients, while a draft code of practice for teachers could be used by schools to discipline those who discuss their beliefs with pupils.

Caroline Petrie, a community nurse who is a devout Baptist, was suspended without pay for two months after she offered to pray for an elderly patient. Jennie Cain remains off work from her job as a primary school receptionist for sending a private email asking for spiritual support from her friends, after her five-year-old daughter was scolded for talking about Hell to another girl.

Latest figures show that courts dealt with 600 cases of workplace discrimination on religious grounds in the year to April 2008, up from 486 two years before.

A Christian registrar lost her job for refusing to take part in civil partnership ceremonies while a relationship counsellor was sacked after he refused to give therapy to homosexual couples. Both have been unsuccessful in their claims for unfair dismissal.

In a speech delivered yesterday to Holy Trinity Brompton church in west London, the birthplace of the Alpha Course, Dr Sentamu said: "Many Christians are living out their lives as the church dispersed in the world of business and commerce every day.

"They are involved daily in building the Kingdom and have the daily challenge of living by a set of values that the world thinks are mad.

"Their counter-cultural work and calling needs to be recognised, affirmed and supported.

"We bring to the table a particular perspective – the vision of justice and righteousness that comes from a creative and generous God. It is not as if we are the only ethically minded people on the block – far from it. But what we are called to in Christ often asks of us more, and beckons us to a bigger vision."

He added: "All of life is religious and there is a desperate need to reconnect the sacred and the secular. There is no more urgent time than now to break down the compartmentalised thinking that separates trust in God from the world of work.

"There needn't be a separation between what goes on in church and in our prayers – and what goes on in the office or in the boardroom or on the shop floor."

Over the past six months Dr Sentamu has criticised repeatedly the greed and recklessness in the banking sector that has led to the current financial crisis.

In his latest attack, he said: "In our imagination, addiction to growth, fuelled by over-borrowing (debt), stopped being a bad thing. Instead, it became a means to an end, a route to growth.

"The unfettered pursuit of profit was never going to deliver. It is this idolatrous love of money, pursuing profit without regard for ethic, risk or consequence, which led us to our current situation."

He conceded that "banking is an honourable objective" but went on: "Not the gambling casino in the basement of banking".

"History is littered with the moral bankruptcy of people who were Christian in name but not in behaviour, who were silent or indifferent in the face of dehumanising and destructive power of governments," he said.

The Archbishop said he was sure that London could get through the current recession since it had survived the Blitz.

He added: "Just as after the war they had to live through a time of pre-fabs and rationing, I believe we urgently need to rediscover what it is to rebuild the city in our day, and now, in this time of transition, we need to learn how to build it.

"It is all the more important in these crucial days that Christians take their faith with them to the workplace and put it to work in the business of the Kingdom of God."

Office posted the article on Wednesday, 18th February 2009 at 8:07am
Article updated on wednesday, 18th february 2009 at 8:09am

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