Church of England

Church of England welcomes Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – just don’t mention the national debt

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev’d David Urquhart, has issued a response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on behalf of the Church of England. It is notable for:

I welcome the emphasis..

The Government is to be commended..

The Chancellor is right to stress..

I congratulate the Government..

A CofE response to a Tory (mini-)budget isn’t usually so effusive, even when qualified with sometimes wholly justifiable niggles and quibbles. In this case, the church advocates the building of more social housing and urges more spending on benefits with a reconsideration of the two-child limit on new claimants for tax credits and Universal Credit. These are perhaps modest proposals, but still ones which perpetuate the deficit and accrue billions more of debt.

And the deficit endures, with the national debt now moving inexorably toward £2trillion. That’s an awful lot of noughts: £2,000,000,000,000, to be precise, with which we are saddling our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all in the name of compassionate social spending on us, right now. Where’s the intergenerational justice in that?

The Bishop says: “To be a nation living within its means is an aspiration worth keeping, even if the revised figures for deficit reduction mean that the goal of its achievement has been moved slightly further away.”

An aspiration worth keeping?

This isn’t some sort of mild depression or a national bout of low self-esteem: it’s an obsessive-compulsive disorder which, if not addressed as a matter of urgency, will lead to statist bulimia and even suicide. The freedom of the government to spend what it does not possess is contingent on certain levels of inescapable risk which are subject to corporate discipline. What future economic shocks, political betrayals, cross-purposes, frauds or humiliations are to come? We cannot possibly know, and nor can the Church of England. Debt repayment is not some laudable, ever-distant aspiration: it is an immanent imperative. Debt poisons, depresses and oppresses people because it lures them into an ever-decreasing Utopia and binds them to backsliding morality and social instability. What Christian school of economics justifies robbing future generations of their income so that we may mitigate our present discomfiture?

But forget the national trillions (as they do): if the Church of England were (say) a mere £2million in debt, what immediate remedial action would it take to balance the books? Does the approach of the Church Commissioners to the Diocese of Rochester provide a clue?