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Equality for All?

by Barbara Ridpath

Posted: 29 Jan 2015

Last Friday at a seminar at Trinity Wall Street in New York entitled Creating Common Good [1](simulcast in part at the London School of Economics in a collaboration between St Mary-Le-Bow, JustShare, St Paul's Institute and the LSE Faith Centre) the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke on the topic Is Inequality Sinful? His arguments were largely about economic inequality but taken to their logical limit, Archbishop Justin issued a real challenge to the Church, particularly within days of the consecration of the first woman bishop in the Church of England. Which kinds of inequality should concern us? Is that inequality of opportunity or inequality of outcome? Does it apply only to economic inequality, dealing with the traditional biblical issue of the rich and poor, or is it wider and broader dealing also with the poor in spirit?

On Monday of the same week, Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, spoke in the House of Lords about why the strong need the weak.[2] His views emphasize the need to consider equality in terms of strength and spirit, access and voice of the differently able, the weak and the strong. And what about equality of gender and sexuality; how are we to deal with these issues? How equal are women in today's society? And what about members of the LGBTI community, who have done far better in society as a whole than they have in the established church, but still have a long way to go to feel they are equally treated in society?

It is telling that the Archbishop's homily at the service preceding the conference at Trinity Wall Street, was considerably more explicit than his remarks at the conference. '[Jesus] does not permit us to accept a society in which the weak are excluded (whether because of race, wealth, gender, ability, or sexuality),' [3] he said.  In his talk at the conference he demonstrated numerous Biblical references to the idea 'We are all equal' under creation and in the eyes of God. 'Inequality contrasts with the basic equality before God,' he told us.

We need to treat each other as equals and work for equality for all because of the Biblical imperative, but there are other reasons as well. We need to know and love and celebrate those who are different from ourselves. That is what makes for both community and understanding. We need to accept and celebrate the gift of our differences as God given, and because they are what makes us human; what makes us 'us.'

Paradoxically, the Church struggles with these issues as much or more than society as a whole. In this, all of us, including the Church, need to recognize our failings, our weaknesses and our imperfections as also part of what makes us part of the human family. We need to recognize, but not to accept them as an excuse for doing nothing. In spite of our weaknesses and our failings, we must listen for understanding on how we can all foster equality for all.

About this author

Barbara Ridpath is the Director of St Paul's Institute.


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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.