Niall Cooper: Middle-class church problems
Can a middle class Church be for the poor?
Can a middle-class Church become ‘a poor Church, for the poor’? A Church of and for the poor is a Gospel imperative, important both for the Church and for people experiencing poverty. However, it’s a long way from reality, according to a survey conducted by Geoff Knott for Church Action on Poverty, Jubilee Plus and Word on the Streets. This view is also supported by the Talking Jesus survey (commissioned by the Church of England, Hope and the Evangelical Alliance) which confirmed the overwhelmingly middle-class nature of Christianity (in England at least). More than 80% practising Christians in England have a university degree, compared with 44% of the overall population.
Class is an elephant in the room which needs to be exposed and talked about. Good people are doing good things but there is evidence that culture and church practices can create barriers between the classes. One of the respondents to Mr Knott’s survey’s said: ‘I think many of our congregation, who are all good people, are actually frightened of those who are poor. Because the poor generally look and speak differently and often behave differently, our congregation is not sure how to interact with them.’
Another respondent said: ‘Most of our church members are comfortably off and have little experience of poverty themselves. I think they see the poor as “other”, as “not like us”. They do not seem to see it as an integral part of their faith to give time and/ or money to helping the poor.’…
Niall Cooper is Director of Church Action on Poverty. The ‘Church for the Poor?’ report is free to download online from www.church-poverty.org.uk/poorchurch
This is an extract from the December 2016/January 2017 edition of Reform.