COVID-19 presents UK churches with the opportunity to fight economic inequality and put forward a better vision for the economy

UK churches can make a unique contribution to combatting economic inequality, and their contribution is more needed and important than ever, writes Simon Perfect in a new Theos report ‘Bridging the Gap: Economic Inequality and Church Responses in the UK’.

The UK has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Europe, with the top 20% of households receiving nearly half of all disposable household income. We now face a looming economic crisis, with COVID-19 exacerbating inequalities and hitting the poor the hardest. According to the Resolution Foundation, a third of employees in the lowest 20% of earnings have lost their jobs, been furloughed or lost hours or pay.

The new report sets out the scale of economic inequality in the UK, the theological case against it, and the practical responses of UK churches – from using their investments to pressure companies to pay fair tax and curb excessive bonuses, to helping empower local people to tackle low pay through community organising. It also shows that churches need to do more, to become lead voices in a national conversation about how to reduce economic inequality in the aftermath of COVID-19. 

Its recommendations for churches centre on using their resources to help reduce economic inequality practically; challenging the problematic assumptions about human nature and society which underpin economic inequality; and advocating for an economy with a moral purpose beyond improving individual well-being.

Simon Perfect, the author of the report, says:

“Economic inequality is a spiritual as well as a social ill; Archbishop Justin Welby called it “the most destabilising and unjust feature of our own society”. Churches have started to move beyond their traditional focus on poverty to tackle economic inequality as well. But COVID-19 shows us they need to do more. This report makes the case that churches should become champions against economic inequality, using their resources to help tackle it, and their voices to make it a national priority.”

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