THE Bishop of Sheffield has spoken out against an economic system “shaped by the ethics of greed and everyone for themselves”.
As the ‘Occupy Sheffield’ protest continued on the forecourt of the Cathedral, the Rt Rev Dr Steven Croft said: “We may want to agree with the questions which are being raised whilst disagreeing with the methods of the protesters in raising them.”
Addressing the Sheffield Anglican Synod last Saturday, the Bishop said the Church’s voice needed to be heard as the economic crisis continues and deepens.
His comments came against a sometimes fraught relationship between the Cathedral authorities and anti-capitalist campaigners. The Cathedral, which says the protesters do not have permission to use the forecourt but respects their right to make the protest, has raised a number of issues to protect access to the building and the people who use it.
The demonstrators have accused the authorities of being “confrontational” and “exaggerating” concerns about health and safety.
Dr Croft said the Church had “a vital contribution to make” in the debate on key themes of justice and priorities that have been “forgotten in society at large.
“We need to carry once again a message of repentance and faith. We are calling for repentance from greed; from foolishness; from indifference to the poor; from carelessness with resources.
“The way in which society can be renewed now as in previous generations is through a rediscovery of Christian faith and values which can then inform the change we need to make.”
Earlier, the Dean of Sheffield, the Rev Peter Bradley, had explained some of the background and implications of the ‘Occupy Sheffield’ camp, which continues to see around 20 tents outside the Cathedral. Campaigners have pledged to stay there “for as long as possible”.
Dr Croft added: “We are seeing the beginnings of a popular movement of protest in the Occupy movement around the world and outside our own Cathedral. It is a movement which is asking questions and articulating a sense that something is wrong rather than providing answers. We may want to agree with the questions which are being raised whilst disagreeing with the methods of the protesters in raising them.”
The Bishop said that there needed to be an end to endemic greed and a culture of selfishness. “Our economic system has been shaped by the ethics of greed and everyone for themselves. But that this economic system contains the seeds of its own destruction. Greed has led to deregulation in the interests of profit. Deregulation and a completely free market leads to massive borrowing and greater risk. Spiralling debt leads in turn to the collapse of the system.”
The campaigners this week gave “heartfelt thanks” to people who had offered support and made donations of food, tents, sleeping bags, money, blankets and other items. “We are particularly touched by the generosity of older people, who have told us their stories and remember, only too well, the very hard times before universal healthcare and education.”