President's Easter Message

The President of the Methodist Conference challenged the myththat poverty is the fault of the poor in his Easter message thisweek.

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin said that blame was always a way out offeeling uncomfortable about injustice. He also said that socialills "do not cause poverty any more than spots causemeasles". 

"We'd prefer to think that others "had it coming", and we tryhard to distinguish between the worthy and unworthy," Dr Wakelinsaid.  "Who is responsible for poverty? The God answer is: Iam, you are, we are."  

Dr Wakelin quoted John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism,at the end of his Easter message: "Every shilling which youneedlessly spend is, in effect, stolen from God and the poor."

Full text of the President's Easter Message follows:

Easter Message

Who's to blame?

The Methodist Church, through our Joint Public Issues Team, hasbeen bringing to our attention a great untruth perpetrated by somepress and some politicians alike: we're told that poverty is thefault of the poor.

There has always been a temptation to do this, something JohnWesley was well aware of when he said it is, "foolish and wickedlyfalse... to say [the poor] are poor because they are idle".

A few years ago our beliefs about poverty, grounded firmly incareful study and research, understood many social ills, such asdrug and alcohol use; struggling relationships; lack of work;illness and the rest, came about as the result of being poor. Somein the public domain have been trying to turn the consequence ofpoverty into its cause. We must speak out against this untruth.

Being poor isn't good for you. How can someone be well whenbasic human needs are denied; when access to everyday life isdenied and the power to change is removed?  

Poverty is a bad thing. It causes social ills. Ills do not causepoverty any more than spots cause measles.

But blame is always a way out of feeling uncomfortable aboutinjustice. We'd prefer to think that others "had it coming" and wetry hard to distinguish between the worthy and unworthy. Who's toblame?

This is a verse from an ironic song by Sydney Carter in which arobber is being crucified next to a carpenter:

It was on a Friday morning

that they took me from the cell

and I saw they had a carpenter

to crucify as well

You can blame it on to Pilate

You can blame it on the Jews

You can blame it on the Devil

It's God I accuse

It's God they ought to crucify

instead of you and me

I said to the carpenter,

a-hanging on the tree

God's response to "blame" is "I'm responsible" - and the crossis a huge statement by God that as creator, God claimsresponsibility. God gave human beings a wonderful gift of freedomprogrammed deeply into our nature. A huge risk; for true choicemeans we can choose not to love, and not loving has profoundconsequences, not only for our happiness, but that of others. Inthat sense, because God is responsible, poverty and sin, sicknessand sadness become possible. But God is not to blame, for thecreator's intention is only good; freely given love is the greatestof all gifts and the most challenging of all expectations.

Who is to blame for poverty? That is possibly an unhelpfulquestion, so put it in a God-centred way.  Who is responsiblefor poverty? And the God answer is: "I am, you are, we are." Thisis the "cross" solution: a unilateral acceptance that God has givenus a challenge and a gift, and by being responsible we side withGod in the only way we can: to end misery and extend his rule oflove and joy. Wesley put this in a practical and uncomfortable way:"Every shilling which you needlessly spend... is, in effect, stolenfrom God and the poor."